Pakistan isn’t an ideal country to lead. There is a high probability that your government will be toppled or worse you will be nailed by the powerful army or the radical clergy. With an entire history of coups and assassinations, you can consider yourself lucky if you get to lead Pakistan and come out of it alive. So, when Shehbaz Sharif became Pakistan’s PM, it was already being taken for granted that his days are numbered. The mic-dropping Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif seems to have run into deep trouble early on into his tenure.
Shehbaz Sharif faces many problems- a challenger in the form of his niece Maryam Sharif, a likely reluctance to stay in the top post, legal troubles and trouble on the Balochistan front.
Balochs corner a nervous Shehbaz Sharif
Imran Khan messed up Pakistan during his short stay in power. And arguably, the biggest issue emerging out of his disastrous stay in power is the Baloch freedom struggle. Balochs have always been looking to get rid of Pakistani occupation but the movement seems to have taken off since the Imran Khan era.
And now that Shehbaz has come to power, Baloch activists are leaving no stone unturned in mounting pressure on the new Prime Minister.
Dr. Nazir Noor Baloch, Human Rights Secretary of the Baloch National Movement, has written letters to top human rights organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), demanding immediate action against enforced disappearances of women and children in Balochistan.
The Balochistan issue is on the verge of getting heavily internationalised and once that happens, Pakistan’s abysmal reputation would get further wounded. Meanwhile, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) could enhance its militant activity and might even find legitimacy as the world starts talking about the Balochistan issue.
Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif seems to have already gone into damage control mode. Last month, he promised to raise the issue of enforced disappearances with powerful quarters. This is Shehbaz’s paranoia talking. He is unnerved by the growing Baloch liberation sentiment that can kick in Pakistan’s balkanization. So, he is making a desperate effort to soothe Baloch sentiment, which is unlikely to succeed.
The reluctant Prime Minister
Shehbaz, in fact, isn’t the traditional Prime Minister who could lead the country on the basis of personal charisma and popularity. He is the perennial number two. In the 1990s, he was subordinate to Nawaz Sharif and even today he seems to be playing second fiddle to Maryam Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, within the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
In the past, Shehbaz has shown clear signs of reluctance in taking up the top post. In 2017, he had the opportunity of becoming the Prime Minister after Nawaz Sharif got convicted. But he rejected the top post. So, Shehbaz’s enemies can sense a sign of reluctance and weakness in PM Shehbaz Sharif. If they apply a little bit of pressure, they can easily topple him.
The legal challenge
Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif continues to face legal trouble. This is reminiscent of Nawaz Sharif’s political downfall too.
Shehbaz and his son, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, currently facing a ₹ 16 billion money laundering case. This could actually put Shehbaz in some real trouble.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister is therefore trying to adopt delay tactics in the ongoing case at a special court in Lahore. He was supposed to appear before the court on Saturday, but got the matter delayed with the excuse of a medical consultation in the UK.
It actually seems that Shehbaz could be timing his return to Pakistan in a way that allows him to stay away from the court for the time being. But for how long will he avoid the inevitable? He could get convicted and toppled just like his brother, Nawaz Sharif.
Read more: Shahbaz Sharif shows his true colours
The Game of Thrones in Pakistan
Meanwhile, Pakistan could open up to a real Game of Thrones. Remember Maryam Sharif remains influential and popular within the PML-N. She is more popular than Shehbaz Sharif and is seemingly a more charismatic leader. She also has the ‘victim card’ to play given that her father got convicted and she herself too had to go to jail.
Maryam Sharif could thus play the role of a popular leader, who according to her narrative, faced a political conviction.
There is every reason for Maryam to stake a claim on the top post and ask her uncle to step down. And she seems very likely to do so. A Game of Thrones could thus come up in Pakistan that could easily devour Shehbaz Sharif’s Prime Ministership.
Shehbaz’s days are thus numbered. And it is only a question of when his regime gets toppled.