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Nawaz Sharif may have blocked brother Shahbaz’s path to becoming Pakistan’s PM | HT Analysis

Some analysts say Nawaz Sharif is playing family politics, but others insist that it was a purely political decision — Shahbaz is by far the strongest candidate PML-N has in Punjab province.

world Updated: Aug 05, 2017 22:29 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif,Nawaz Sharif,Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Shahbaz Sharif after appearing before the Joint Investigation Team in Islamabad on June 17, 2017.(Reuters File Photo)

The chances of Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif becoming prime minister seemed to have dimmed over the past few days, with ousted premier Nawaz Sharif reportedly unhappy with his younger brother.

Initial reports had pointed towards Shahid Khaqan Abbasi — who was sworn in as prime minister earlier this week — serving as an interim premier for around 45 days, till Shahbaz could contest Nawaz’s vacated national assembly seat. However, political analysts say Shahbaz’s decision to nominate his son Hamza Shahbaz as the next chief minister of Punjab may have turned his brother against him — Nawaz was reportedly looking at his daughter Maryam Nawaz or his wife Kulsoom Nawaz to head Punjab.

A report in the influential daily Dawn suggested that a number of PML-N leaders in Punjab believe Nawaz “smartly deprived” his younger brother of an opportunity to become prime minister and at the same time, shattered the dreams of nephew Hamza to take up the reins in Punjab. According to the report, Shahabaz has missed or was made to miss a “golden opportunity” to succeed his elder brother.

Some analysts say Nawaz Sharif is playing family politics, but others insist that it was a purely political decision taken in the interests of the party. Shahbaz is by far the strongest candidate the party has in Punjab and there are many within the party old guard who have urged Nawaz Sharif to not weaken the PML-N power base.

Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and ousted premier Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Minister's Office in Islamabad. (Reuters File Photo)

A federal minister told a local newspaper that the decision to retain Shahbaz as Punjab chief minister had been finalised. “The extended cabinet of Mr Abbasi is a proof of it,” he said, adding the current arrangement suited the leadership as Nawaz would see to matters at the Centre and Shahbaz Sharif in Punjab.

Other ministers, including foreign minister Khawaja Asif and defence minister Khurram Dastgir Khan confirmed that the party wants Shahbaz in Punjab. “Since Shahbaz has good equation with all MPAs in Punjab and all ongoing development projects are on his finger tips, a larger section of the party is of the view that he should continue delivering in Punjab,” Khurram Dastgir told a private TV channel.

Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah said: “The decision that Shahbaz Sharif will continue serving in Punjab is almost certain.” Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan told the media on Friday that the parliamentary party headed by Nawaz Sharif was authorised to announce a reversal of its earlier decision to nominate Shahbaz for the prime minister’s post.

However, PML-N is yet to make an announcement about Shahbaz withdrawing from the race for the national assembly seat.

The bigger question, of course, is whether this decision has been taken in the interests of the party or in the interests of Nawaz Sharif. So far, differences between the two brothers have not surfaced but some party leaders have warned that if not done amicably, this decision could cost the party its next election.

First Published: Aug 05, 2017 22:28 IST