THE new prime minister has taken the wheel. He must steer Pakistan to calmer waters at the earliest possible. Following a deeply contentious election, the opposition seems to be in no mood to let him get comfortable in his seat.

He can expect a tough fight over every piece of legislation his government brings to parliament. In fact, some of the more hawkish lawmakers affiliated with the PTI have made it clear they do not intend to allow him to function at all.

Regardless, the prime minister cannot afford to let himself get frazzled. It is his responsibility to bridge the gaping political chasm and restore some sense of unity within the nation as he attempts to tackle its historic social and economic crises. It will, without a doubt, require immense grit and a large heart to take the country forward as one.

Since Mr Shehbaz Sharif has chosen to lead, he should demonstrate that his second term will be better than the first. He must appoint a cabinet of capable individuals, chosen not for their proximity to the Sharif clan, but for how well-suited they are to manage the portfolios handed to them.

This is not the time to dish out ministries and important offices as payback for political favours. The PDM government offered ample lessons on why this would be a poor mistake to repeat during a crisis period.

Considering how much has been placed at stake for Mr Sharif to get a second chance to ‘deliver’, he must deliberate with great care on who will get him the results being expected from his government. He should remember that his government will be walking a tightrope: policy confusion can quickly snowball into a national disaster. The PDM’s last finance ministry was a case in point.

His other major responsibility would be to start shaping the contours of Pakistan’s immediate political future such that the country can start to move on from the bitter unravelling of its sociopolitical order that marked the interregnum between April 8, 2022, and March 3, 2024.

This will require the PML-N and its allied parties to, first and foremost, put an immediate end to any plans to further victimise the PTI and also to start a process to reconcile with its leadership and its supporters even if it means taking the difficult first step. It has been repeatedly commented that it was the hubris of the PDM coalition and its backers that the people of Pakistan voted against in the recent election.

It would be a grave miscalculation to continue disregarding this as the new prime minister makes an attempt to lead the nation forward. Mr Sharif will need to show immense courage if he wishes to be remembered well.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2024

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