Who will lead Pakistan?
There is a deep resentment brewing around the PML(N) succession that may witness Nawaz Sharif’s daughter assuming leadership
Enthronement of Maryam Nawaz, daughter of deposed Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif, as his political heir apparent – as chief of Pakistan Muslim League (Navajo) – has peeled factional wrangling inside the ruling party. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has stated openly that the right to dissent is being suppressed along with the right to have a different opinion. The former interior minister (2013-17) hastened to add that Maryam Nawaz should not be compared to Benazir Bhutto who stepped in when the sons of executed PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto were reluctant to take up the baton.
Three-times PM, Nawaz Sharif was barred from public office by the Supreme Court in July 2017, castigated as "dishonest" for not disclosing his earnings from a Dubai-based company in his nomination papers for the 2013 general election. But his political heir apparent expresses displeasure with the apex court, albeit discreetly. "I honestly don't know what crime my family has committed and why it is being victimised. Is it a crime to amass wealth through fair means? If you claim that our hands aren't clean then you must prove it." She pointed, accusing fingers against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman. Maryam alleges that he "confessed to having offshore accounts but he is still believed to be Mr Clean." Another senior PML(N) leader, who too disapproves of the imposition of Maryam, said in private that unlike 'Nawaz Sahib, the PTI leader disclosed his offshore assets'.
The spadework for pushing Maryam, now in her mid-forties, to the top slot began in early December last year. The PML(N) had an amendment tagged in the party's constitution through the formation of the central executive committee alongside re-setting up of the 110-member Central Working Committee – both headed by Nawaz Sharif although not listed in either body. Maryam was inducted in the CEC, which has since been the principal policy-framing body. Among others in the CEC, are PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Member of National Assembly Hamza Shahbaz, the son of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Azad Kashmir PM Raja Farooq Haider; Gilgit-Baltistan CM Hafeeziur Rehman Hafeez; minister for Kashmir Affairs Chaudhry Birjees, Tahir party spokesperson Dr Asif Kirmani as also Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The possibility of catapulting Maryam to the PML(M) top slot was the talk of the town since early February. There too, Maryam had an edge like the Bhuttos. Sharif's Hasan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz are apathetic to politics, but Maryam was inspired by her father. She was the main campaigner for her mother Kulsoom Nawaz, who fought the election from the Lahore seat successfully after Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from office. This apart, Maryam Nawaz was made the chair of the family philanthropic trust, the Sharif Trust, in 1997. A mother of three, she joined her father's political party in 2011 and headed the Prime Minister Youth Programme in 2013. Newsweek Pakistan branded her as Nawaz Sharif's "heir apparent" and the "presumed future leader" of PML(N) in 2012.
However, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan cannot reconcile himself to accept Maryam as the party supremo. Sensing the possibility of imposing her, he said in a televised interview: "Kids are kids and kids are apolitical. Maryam is a daughter, not a political leader." Another MNA, Riaz Pirzada, suggested that Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif be put in charge, but a large number of party leaders have personal allegiance to the Sharif family. One of them, Pervaiz Aslam, told newspersons, that as Shahbaz Sharif remained the CM of Punjab, Maryam Nawaz remains the only choice to lead the party at the national level. Maryam has no parliamentary experience, let alone the spark of brilliance that pushed Benazir ahead.
A well-known functionary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, on conditions of anonymity, expressed his disgust over the power struggle in PML(N) when CIA "is breathing down the neck of Pakistan and both sides of Pakistan." He was referring to a sensational report that the CIA has substantially increased drug smuggling in Afghanistan to fund proxies the world over. A report, "One Million Women and 100,000 children Drug Addicts in Afghanistan", in Farsi, released by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan states, "Thanks to the US invasion, Afghanistan is a narco-state today. There are between 900,000 and million women and around 100,000 children who have turned to drugs." More than 16 years after the US-led invasion that laid down the false promise of making the Afghan women free created an "inferno for Taliban, ISIL, Jihadists, and technocrats."
The HRCP activist who had served the Pakistan Army apprehends that the CIA has a blueprint for 'destabilising' the subcontinent and its patronage to drug smuggling is a part of that. Wali Karzai, one of Afghanistan's biggest drug smugglers, had been for a long time on the CIA's payroll. Wali was Hamid Karzai's brother, former President of Afghanistan picked by the US shortly after the occupation, in 2001, according to RAWA's overseas representative, Friba.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)