Why Nawaz Sharif sacrificed PM post after Pakistan army ‘gave him two options’

NEW DELHI: Nawaz Sharif had to relinquish his chance of returning as Pakistan prime minister for a record fourth term after the all-powerful army gave him two choices: choose premiership for yourself or leave it to allow your daughter Maryam to become Punjab chief minister.
The Pakistan army‘s catch-22 situation compelled Nawaz to step aside and nominate younger brother Shehbaz Sharif for the top post so that Maryam could have a shot at power, party insiders told news agency PTI.
The announcement that Shehbaz would return as the prime minister earlier this week had sparked a buzz in PML-N’s rank and file, especially since the party had originally selected 74-year-old Nawaz for the plum post.
“Nawaz Sharif could have become the prime minister to lead the coalition government for the fourth time but then his daughter would have no chance to become the Punjab chief minister. For the love of his daughter, Nawaz sacrificed his wish to become prime minister for the fourth time,” a party insider said.
Maryam is now set to become the first woman chief minister of Punjab, a crucial province of over 120 million people.
Army’s power play
Interestingly, Nawaz Sharif appeared to be the pick of the army in the run up to the election and was expected to return as prime minister after the general election, which many describe as “mother of all selections” due to the military’s interference.
The army threw its weight behind Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N while launching an unprecedented crack down on former PM Imran Khan, who is languishing in jail due to unending legal troubles.
Despite his setbacks, Imran managed to appear stronger after the polls as independent candidates backed by his party PTI won 92 seats in the National Assembly, followed by PML-N with 80, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party with 54 and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) with 17 seats.
Sources said that due to the poor performance of Nawaz’s party and its failure to secure a better mandate, the army gave him two choices after the February 8 polls.
“The first was to become premier of the coalition government in Islamabad and make his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif Punjab chief minister and the other was to leave the top post for Shehbaz and have his daughter Maryam accommodated as the Punjab chief minister. Nawaz chose the second,” another source said.
The source added that army wanted Shehbaz, 72, to lead the country and was planning to sideline Nawaz by one excuse or another at the end of the day.
Thus, a sub-par performance gave army a chance to dictate its terms.
Earlier this week, Maryam suggested that Nawaz’s decision to withdraw himself from the top slot is related to PML-N not securing a clear majority in the polls.
Pakistan army’s latest power-play cements its image as the de-facto ruler of the coup-prone country, which has witnessed military rule for over half of its 75-plus years of existence.
Though election results dealt a blow to Pakistan army’s hold on the people of the country, it eventually managed to install a leader of its choice as head of the government.
(With inputs from PTI)

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