From PML-Nawaz to PML-Nobody: Who’s calling the shots?

Published: April 18, 2018

If Hamza plays his cards right, he can easily oust Maryam and become the future of PML-N.

Ours is a great country. We love our politics as much as we love our curry with laal mirch masala (red chilli powder). Perhaps one of the primary reasons we are as emotional as we are is because of the laal mirch (read laal, hari, peeli mirch) in our food. It makes us exciting, passionate and restless. A little moderation in our masala intake might make us more tolerant and peaceful, and this definitely is the case for most of the nations of the subcontinent.

Seems like at this moment the greatest need for moderation is in Islamabad, where judicial activism is at its peak. Nawaz Sharif has now been disqualified from politics for life, along with Jahangir Tareen, by a judge who seems to be carrying out a vendetta against all corrupt politicians in our country. This is a momentous announcement for Pakistan, as such decisions were usually made in the past by our dictators and not our judges. Sometimes us laymen can no longer tell who is really running the country.

There is no doubt there were some serious issues highlighted by the Panama Papers, and they had to be acted upon. The decision to disqualify Nawaz from office over his dubious financial matters was also warranted. However, trying to bury the man over it seems rather uncalled for. The ‘rumoured’ crux of the matter is that if you ever encounter a smart and ambitious member of the judicial fraternity and they ask you for a posting in the higher courts, you give it to them, rather than face their wrath several years later.

If banning corrupt politicians is the new modus operandi adopted by our honourable courts, they certainly have a heavy long haul ahead of them. If one looks around keenly, it becomes quite apparent that no politician is suitable on the moral and financial qualifications laid out in Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan, yet they are all still there. Some of these “sadiq” and “ameen” (honest and truthful) politicians have even completed their five-year tenure in office and yet continue to be elected bari bari (repeatedly).

So what’s in store for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the future?

Currently, they have gone from PML-Nawaz to PML-Nobody, because of the life ban on their leader. However, making such a sweeping statement is both premature and immature. Everyone knows the only true head of PML-N will always be Nawaz, the same way everyone knows the only true head of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will always be Asif Ali Zardari, no matter how much Bilawal Bhutto Zardari  tries to weigh in on the decisions of the party.

Nawaz will now have to play kingmaker instead of ‘resident dictator’ within the PML-N. He will still be calling all the shots, but indirectly, through consultation and advice rather than direct orders. This new setup won’t be as much of a problem for Nawaz as it will be for someone else.

The actual problem will arise when the party decides on the successor to Nawaz. His apparent choice was his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, but this succession planning has now weakened. Maryam is also facing litigation and investigation in the ‘fontgate’ scandal, based on the papers she submitted to the courts in the Calibri font. If it’s proven to be a wilful and deliberate presentation of false documents, she could be banned next.

Her impending ouster would mean the obvious choice is Shehbaz Sharif, with his successor and son, Hamza Shehbaz, in the offing. If Hamza plays his cards right, he can easily oust Maryam and become the future of PML-N.

There is another issue which requires resolution before any of this comes to pass – the departure of party leaders. Eight PML-N parliamentarians have already resigned from the party on the premise of making South Punjab a separate province. Most commentators believe they may now go towards PML-N’s arch-rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The Sheerazis of Thatta are also waiting in line since the snub of their candidate for the position of Governor Sindh, and may move along soon as well.

From the echoes of a judicial coup, to the disintegration of the ruling party, everything under the sun can be seen at the moment.

Nonetheless, one fact remains constant. The former prime minister and now banned-for-life politician, along with his brother Shehbaz, are the primary reason why Punjab has prospered and has become the province it is today. The law and order situation within the province and the country at large has improved. Credit should be given where it is due.

However, a bulk of this prosperity has only been limited to the province of Punjab, which is the PML-N’s main political base. What’s a government if it doesn’t put all its weight behind its own electorate?

Whatever the pressures the party faces at the moment, there is a feeling the party will still hold its control over the local government within Punjab in the coming elections. Whether it retains its political majority in the next elections, however, remains to be seen.



The author holds an MPhil in Public Administration and has taught Politics and Public Policy at the University of Karachi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    As of now, it’s Nawaz who’s calling the shots with the help of his daughter.
    When you go big game hunting you carry a gun capable of killing a lion. If you take along a gun for a duck shoot, you should expect trouble…….a wounded lion is far more dangerous than a healthy one. Sadly the situation is still unfolding and the people and the country suffer.Recommend

  • Patwari

    “give credit where credit is due.” To plunderers, thugs, absconders, now living in London?
    “law and order situation improved in the country.” Which country is that? Shangrila?
    The author is dead wrong when he gives Nawaz and his cabal credit for Punjab’s prosperity.
    True, when you send money by the truckload to Punjab, directly from the mint, why would
    Punjab not prosper? It was done at the expense of other provinces. Alienating them.
    Do notice, that Nawaz, during his reign, hardly left Fortress Punjab. He would visit other
    provinces surreptitiously. For a day at the most. He knew he was not their Prime Minister.
    They used to throw rocks at his motorcade. And curse him mightily.
    The Lahori Darbar of the ‘billionaire’ [read US dollars] from Jati Umra is no more. Dust to dust ashes to ashes. Surely crows roost there now. How the mighty have fallen.
    The Sharif Brothers, Maryam and Saad Travelling Show is all that is left. Foul mouthed and
    all under indictments. Means no more chances to become Ameer ul Momineen for Nawaz.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Well, do you think that the Pakistani Nation needs to grow a spine and rise up against this corrupt cabal ruling Punjab. Seems like this cabal is taking turns being PM’s and ministers and whatnots. Plundering, looting, in broad daylight. The people need pitchforks, shovels, tire irons, lug wrenches, shoes, dandas…
    Not a day goes by when they don’t unearth another scandal involving mega corruption.
    Nothing from the population. They acquiesce. Look the other way. Must be karma.
    Seems the Pakistanis grow a backbone only when it comes to Indian Kashmir. They start foaming and ranting and saber rattling and do the dervish dance when they hear Kashmir…
    Seems like the current CJP [Chief Justice of Pakistan] is doing all the heavy lifting. Kudos
    to him. May God keep him in the palm of his hand.
    No elephant gun required here. Just freshly grown, …minted,… spine.Recommend

  • Phantom

    “Nonetheless, one fact remains constant. The former prime minister and now banned-for-life politician, along with his brother Shehbaz, are the primary reason why Punjab has prospered and has become the province it is today. The law and order situation within the province and the country at large has improved. Credit should be given where it is due.”
    ….Pakistan as a third world country is steeped in corruption. The people of Punjab have not seen any improvement in their healthcare, economic or social wellbeing. There has been no improvement in the public education sector either.
    The development of a few roads and bridges in Lahore does not equal to prosperity for Punjab.
    Let’s not forget that the Sharif family, one of the most influential family in Pakistan is directly responsible for the corruption and the sorry state of affairs in the country…this statement by the writer seems all the more ludicrous…Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    You have said it, though there are people including the author who have not yet read the message written on the wll, the shrifs are doomed with their political tacticts and so is their party including the incumbent Prime Minister, all planned for a ban in the country if their anarchic agitation continues against the legal institution.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Sane

    Sharifs time is over now.Recommend