Burden or opportunity?

Published February 25, 2024

IN terms of women’s leadership, Maryam Nawaz’s rise to the position of chief minister of Punjab marks a milestone in our political landscape. As Pakistan’s first woman chief minister, and that too, in the country’s political heartland, Ms Nawaz is embarking on a journey of challenges and opportunities.

But it is also one likely to be marred by the controversy generated by an election that has left the nation polarised. She faces the dual challenge of not only delivering effective governance but also rebuilding the public’s fractured trust in the political system. With strong allegations of rigging and seething voters, she has her work cut out for her.

Ms Nawaz will also have to contend with the sexism that dominates our political discourse, though as the daughter of a senior leader, she enjoys privileges and protection that grassroots politicians have never had.

Her inexperience in parliamentary politics is likely to subject Ms Nawaz’s every move and decision as chief minister to a level of scrutiny that is perhaps greater than what her counterparts in the other provinces will encounter. To perform in such a treacherous political terrain, Ms Nawaz has no choice but to expertly navigate the delicate line between assertive leadership and inclusive governance.

In a climate of political hostility and deep mistrust, it will not be easy to be a unifying force and bridge the divide between the ruling party and opposition. Her success will hinge not only on her ability to deliver tangible results but also on her capacity to foster dialogue and collaboration.

The challenge ahead requires a leader who can transcend partisan divides, and prove that she is the leader of a provincial assembly, and not just a political party. As the saying goes: uneasy lies the head that wears the crown — and this will be true for Ms Nawaz. Will she rise to the occasion, or sink? Time will tell.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2024

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