Pakistan’s political scene has witnessed upheaval over the last week, as the country’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been ousted by the Supreme Court on corruption charges. This kind of tectonic shift in a democratic set up is unforeseen in the recent times. Probably, immaturity of Pakistan’s democracy and the democratic institutions has been the reason for such development. However, what is not uncommon in this episode is dynastic nature of the political parties.
Within 24 hours of the Nawaz Sharif’s removal, his younger brother Shahbaz replaces him as the country’s next Prime Minister. However, according to the Pakistan’s constitution, Shahbaz (who was the Chief Minister of Punjab till yesterday) has to win the by-election to National Assembly first. Till Shahbaz wins the election, the name of Nawaz’s close ally, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has been forwarded as the interim prime minister. The bonhomie between the two was visible when Abbasi thanked Nawaz even though he has been referred only for the interim period.
The question remains whether Shahbaz can fit into Nawaz’s shoe? According to Pakistani newspaper, Pakistan Herald, Shahbaz has been a reformer, who “has changed the shape of Punjab and developed it according to modern standards”. To be honest, Shahbaz has many qualities as per the press releases in Pakistan. He is a man of strict discipline and able administrator. He has also been a reformist. He was instrumental is removing red tape culture in bureaucracy and brought reforms in agriculture, education, health and industry. He is also regarded as more astute than his elder brother, although less charismatic.
He brought development in Punjab with big size infrastructure projects and introduced metro bus service in Lahore, the first in Pakistan.
However, the corruption tag in his family is likely to be exploited by the opposition. Imran Khan, the premier of the main opposition party, Tariq-E-Insaaf is already celebrating the dislodging of Nawaz Sharif. Khan is neither amused by Shahbaz becoming the successor of Nawaz. He termed it as political dynasty in trying to “form of monarchy”. “Political parties don’t have democracy in them. They are family parties … Actually, it’s like a form of monarchy.”
Nawaz Sharif, however, is vehement in his own defense and termed it as a conspiracy. “My conscience is clear. I have never been involved in corruption. I ask you to support me in building this nation of ours. Only one family is being targeted for accountability,” he said.
Shahbaz has to overcome these impediments as there is every reason for the general population to believe the Supreme Court’s verdict. However, the silver lining is that Pakistan election is derived from stalwart figures with larger than life image, which both Nawaz and Shahbaz possesses. Shahbaz, nonetheless, has to handle the mushrooming terror groups positioned in Pakistan and all powerful military establishments and its subsidiary, Inter Service Intelligence (ISI). Notwithstanding, for next 45 days, all attention will be focused on the by-election that Shahbaz has to win to become the next prime minister of Pakistan.