PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is backing his nephew Hamza Shahbaz to become the president of party’s Punjab chapter in a move that would ‘formally introduce’ the family’s next generation in national politics.
Hamza, who is one of the two sons of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, is currently a Member National Assembly (MNA) and the only youth member of the Sharif family active in politics. His younger brother Salman Shahbaz runs a business in Lahore while Nawaz Sharif’s sons too are uninterested in politics.
“Mian sahib (Nawaz) wants to groom him as the party’s future leader…He thinks Hamza can be his successor in the long run,” said a senior party leader.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was scheduled to hold intra-party elections of its provincial chapters during Ramazan but deferred the exercise to overcome internal differences.
Interestingly, Hamza’s father Shahbaz Sharif is also interested in becoming president of the party’s Punjab chapter but Nawaz is opposed to the idea. Most PML-N leaders cite ‘injecting new blood’ in the party as the sole reason for elder Sharif’s plan to prefer Hamza over his father but some have a different opinion.
They say Nawaz might be preempting what could be the rise of his younger brother as a leader who can ultimately replace him as party chief. There have been reports recently that the military is ready to back the PML-N if somebody other than Nawaz leads it.
Shahbaz has been holding ‘overt and covert’ meetings with military chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in recent months but it is not known whether Nawaz is in favour of such interactions. The Punjab chief minister has even called for the army’s intervention in restoring peace in Karachi. His party, however, opposed the idea the next day, saying sending army to Karachi would be harmful both for the country and the military.
A PML-N spokesperson told The Express Tribune on Monday that elections for the party’s provincial chapters will now be held in September.
Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan, party’s newly elected information secretary, said several names and options are under consideration for the positions of party’s provincial heads. He however denied that there are any differences in party ranks.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.