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September 29, 2018

The good leader


September 29, 2018

There comes a time when there is a vacuum that needs to be filled by a leader. The tragedy of Pakistan is that this space is almost always given to a blood relative of the leader before. However, DNA can only do so much; some people are just not natural born leaders.

Shahbaz Sharif is seen as the primary reason for the sense of failure and loss of morale associated with the PML-N – and not without good reason.

Eleven parties had joined hands in an alliance for free and fair elections right after Imran Khan’s PTI was voted into power. Electrified discussions took over the media – was it time for an 11-party dharna? Losing candidate Maulana Fazlur Rehman seemed adamant, the PPP joined in and everyone waited and looked for a leader – who didn’t show up.

These days, though, Shahbaz Sharif is very much present at the forefront of National Assembly proceedings and television discussions. Perhaps he has realised that he needs to step up, or perhaps his brother’s release from jail has spurred him into action. While Maryam and Nawaz Sharif were in jail, rumours were abound that they were not happy with the younger Sharif brother’s performance.

So why did Shahbaz Sharif fail? For one, he lacks the charisma and drive that his brother has. Shahbaz Sharif is an administrator, a manager and an executor, but not quite the leader he was expected to be. His first speech in parliament was overshadowed by a first-timer in any assembly, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and an angry and offended new prime minister. Shahbaz’s speech was forgettable and he, himself stood forgotten.

However, there is a good cop theory that can redeem him. According to this theory, Shahbaz decided to keep low and keep quiet to make it obvious and clear that the Sharifs can indeed lay low. Silence in jail and silence out of jail might aid the Sharifs to make a clean return at a later stage in their careers. And this theory is not without proof. Some say that party members have been told to quietly and carefully ride out the unstable and troublesome times they are in. Their main leader’s bad-cop attitude didn’t garner great results and some feel that it may be best to keep quiet and live another day.

However, it is quite possible that the PML-N – and the media – is most likely going to look for a new leader for the party. What Shahbaz didn’t – or perhaps, did and willing sacrificed – realise is that the span for a true leader to take charge is no less than a matter of minutes or hours. Even though he was given a rather large window, he didn’t rise to the occasion. You can adopt a compromising attitude in politics and still be a strong leader. But Shahbaz’s attitude was so confusing that it was difficult to ascertain what he wanted to do. And the see-saw between committal and non-committal may have taken his national career.

All eyes will be on Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz once they break their silence, expectedly after the chehlum of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. Nawaz Sharif most likely has a plan for the path ahead. And whether it is one of aggression or one of compromise, it is most likely not confused.

A few days ago, Shahbaz Sharif warned that parliament can make or break anyone. He threatened that the opposition could bring a no-confidence vote against the government and then went on to add that, although it was possible, it was premature to say so and the opposition would work for the nation’s stability. Contradictions and confusion have largely marked Shahbaz Sharif’s reign and should confirm the fact that leading by blood is sometimes no leading at all.

The writer is a seniorexecutive producer atGeo News.

Twitter: @mariumc

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