In the first palpable sign that it is willing to accept the ineligibility of Nawaz Sharif as party chief for next year’s general election, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has at last chosen a successor. In naming Shehbaz Sharif as the PML-N president on Oct 31, the party’s leaders have hardly been resourceful or adventurous — keeping as they did the leadership stakes within the family instead of setting any new democratic tradition by headhunting younger or radical party figures for the job. But at least they decided to cede ground on a central question that had for months crippled decision-making within the party and hamstrung the country’s overall governance.
Given the clamour for cleansing the political arena, along with other spheres of activity, of corruption, the PML-N huddle in London appears to have made a serious gamble or a forced error, as some would call it, in persisting with a sibling of the ousted prime minister — not that the alternatives of naming Maryam Nawaz-Safdar or Hamza Sharif were any better. The drums of accountability are beating in Pakistan and who knows who will be swept off their throne next. Perhaps it was fear of Shehbaz being declared ineligible under the plea of accountability that pushed Maryam into the saddle (albeit temporarily) in the first place — alienating the party’s old guard and igniting a family battle for succession. Never mind the fact that Maryam made a complete hash of it — dragging the party into a direct collision with key state institutions.
Like Sindh, Punjab’s love affair with dynastic rule is neither quite over nor about to change, despite the seismic shift in the country’s politics. The PML-N continues to cling on to its aging leaders as if expecting them to steer them out of choppy seas and also out of the reach of transparency and accountability. Where is the will to circumvent the hereditary process or the desire to see the rise of competent leadership? We should aspire for these democratic principles.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2017.
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