Following the dismissal of the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, there has been much chaos amongst the peers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, some of which has boiled over and spilled out into the open.
In one inner circle, there was fear that Sharif’s politics had ended the moment he left the country. Tending to his ailing wife, he was unlikely to return. In another quarter, there was hope that his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, would step up and lead them in this turbulent time.
But then Sharif returned last week – although a rumor had it that his return was due to his expiring visa rather than any real desire for a homecoming. However, I would not pay much heed to this rumour because, if the former prime minister did not wish to return, he could have easily extended his visa from abroad.
Nawaz Sharif has been in politics for over three decades now. He won’t let trivial matters hold him back, or on the contrary, force his hand. He came home, in my opinion, to ensure that his grip on the party remains strong.
Then there was also the matter of who would be the PML-N party president and, more importantly, if his party wins the next elections, who would be the prime minister? For both slots, Shehbaz Sharif was a favorite.
But on Tuesday, Nawaz Sharif was re-elected as the party president for four years. According to party insiders, the elder Sharif didn’t want to hand over the reins of his political dynasty to his younger sibling. Shehbaz, by most accounts, is a sagacious politician who could outpace his elder brother.
So now that leaves only one unanswered question: If in power again, who will be the premier? We will have to wait for this one.
When the ex-prime minister landed in Pakistan, there was an unprecedented haste in the government circles to pass bills and legislation that would allow Sharif back into the driving seat of his party.
On Tuesday, during the party convention, an emboldened Sharif thundered down on his opponents. He warned his enemies using a stanza of poetry to emphasise that he would not beg and plead for what is rightly his, again. He sent a loud and clear message to those it was meant for, a day after they sent him theirs through blocking the interior minister from entering court premises.
Nawaz Sharif is angry about his removal, as are his party leaders. But the anger, if not restrained, could damage the democracy Sharif promises to protect.
On the other hand, it seems that Shehbaz Sharif understands the consequences of disrupting this balance. According to those privy to developments, he flew to London earlier this month to convince his elder brother to return to Pakistan. And now he wants his brother to also avoid confrontation. These reservations were clearly laid out in his speech at the convention, where he castigated those advisors who gave misleading counsel. He, instead, insisted that advice should only be sought from within ‘the family’.
Despite some disappointments, and family rivalries, Shehbaz Sharif is still standing with his brother supporting his role as the leader of the party. Maybe Nawaz should listen.