Jati Umrah

Dynastic Politics

With a view to prepare Maryam Safdar to succeed her father Nawaz Sharif, she was being groomed to take over as the foreign minister but the idea was dropped when she had to resign as the chairperson of the Prime Minister Youth Loan Programme.

By Khawaja Amer | April 2023

Though former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the supremo of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), has not so loudly and clearly announced Maryam Safdar as his successor, her appointment as the PML-N’s chief organiser with full authority to run the party the way she deems fit, is definitely a clear message to party workers that she would succeed Nawaz Sharif in place of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif or any other member of the family.

Hamza Shehbaz who was also being trained to hold the reins suddenly disappeared from the political scene soon after he lost the Punjab Chief Minister’s office to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ally Parvez Elahi in July last year. Since then he has been abroad leaving the space for his cousin to reorganise and run the party according to her wishes, making her the undisputed heir apparent to Nawaz Sharif.

With Maryam at the helm of affairs the influence of Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza, in party matters will diminish in the days to come and may culminate in a role, which gives her complete control over party affairs, making the PML-N the undisputed possession of Maryam, though at the cost of some stalwarts like Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

It seems that she is not at all pushed about such casualties, for she knows fairly well that party hawks are with her. There is a strong group in the party which believes that in war with the PTI chairman Imran Khan, they need a firebrand speaker and a rabble-rouser. Maryam’s fiery speeches during the PDM meetings against Imran Khan are on record.

Critical analysis reveals that the decision to make Maryam the chief organiser of the party was planned way back in 2012 when it was announced that she will participate in politics to assist her father in the 2013 General Elections. Since then she was pushed into the political arena and was appointed head of the PML-N’s Strategic Media Communication Cell (SMCC), set up with the special permission of the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, to create favourable public opinion for the government by launching special campaigns.

In fact, with a view to prepare her to succeed her father, she was being groomed to take over as the foreign minister but the idea was dropped when she had to resign as the chairperson of the Prime Minister Youth Loan Programme following the Lahore High Court order asking the federal government to replace her with a fresh person purely on merit through a transparent selection.

The position of the foreign minister remained vacant for a very long time despite the fact that there were competent people like a seasoned diplomat Tariq Fatemi to fill the post. It was only because Nawaz wanted to see none other than Maryam as the foreign minister the post remained vacant till it became necessary to have a full-fledged foreign minister who could attend important meetings.

In April 2012 Newsweek Pakistan published an article describing Maryam as the new face of the PML-N. The article portrayed her as a progressive heir apparent of Nawaz Sharif. Prominent political analyst Ayesha Siddiqa also feels that Maryam is being groomed by Nawaz Sharif much like Bhutto trained Benazir and this is not surprising in a country where dynastic politics has been the trend.

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