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Shahbaz Sharif: A Prime Minister of 30 days?

July 15, 2023 at 6:15 pm | Economic Affairs

Shahbaz Sharif put a curtain on extra-constitutional speculations by announcing that his government will only be in power for another month but before announcing his intention to step down.

By Qamar Bashir

“I am the Prime Minister for another thirty days,” said Shahaz Sharif during recently held ceremony in Islamabad. He quelled all rumors including elections would be postponed indefinitely, the incumbent governments would continue for at least one more year, and formation of a technocratic government for indefinite period.

Shahbaz Sharif put a curtain on extra-constitutional speculations by announcing that his government will only be in power for another month but before announcing his intention to step down.  He put everything in order including making a fundamental change in the election laws and announcement of election date by the Election Commission.

The tenure of Shahbaz Sharif as Prime Minister after he was sworn in by the Acting Chairman Senate on April 11th is nothing short of a miracle. During his brief stint in power, he was able to maintain his reputation as a doer, a negotiator, a problem solver, and his capacity to remain calm and composed in adversity.

He possesses remarkable patience, leadership, and steadily collect speed while keeping the ground realities in mind, and put the throttle to the ground.

During his brief stint in power, Shahbaz Sharif was able to maintain his reputation as a doer, a negotiator, a problem solver, and his capacity to remain calm and composed in adversity.

He overcame numerous foes and hit numerous milestones, which he could only have accomplished with so many forces pulling him back and dragging him to the ground. One of his greatest challenges was to keep the PDM in good spirits and to keep it focused and determined. PDM, which was a mixture of many ingredients and had a tendency to fall apart quickly, remained not only intact but also kept on moving in the right direction.

The second challenge was to bring the country safely out of its precarious financial and economic predicament as it was on the verge of default. Ishaq Dar’s unwarranted and mindless intervention kept the economy unnecessarily in great pain and losses until Shahbaz Sharif came to the rescue, charmed the IMF chief during his meeting in Paris.

As a result, he saved the Pakistani assets that Ishaq Dar had lined up and was prepared to sell, thus saving the country from imminent default, and paving the way for roll out of deposits by Saudi Arabia, UAE and China. 

Shabaz Sharif took a great care to bring in much needed investment in the country and in his effort he sat up a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) with the Army Chief in the Centre place to target vital sectors such as defense production, agriculture, livestock, minerals, mining, information technology, and energy. It was aimed to serve as the apex body to ensure economic growth, increase global competitiveness, attract foreign direct investment (FDI), and stimulate job creation, all of which will contribute to national stability and security.

Soon after its formation, SIFC took swift actions and in a matter of hours if not days four terminals of Karachi ports were sold to a Dubai-based company for a lease of more than 30 years.

SIFC’s second decision was to auction Pakistan Steel Mills, which is expected to be completed soon. It launched a third project, the Livestock and Dairy Modernization and Improvement Support (LIMS) Program on 8th of July, which aims to introduce modern agro-farming to increase the profitability and productivity of Pakistan’s livestock and dairy industries.

Shahbaz Sharif has improved his resume and acquired a great deal of confidence to reapply for the premiership position. His ability to overcome all obstacles necessary to win the election within 16 months is admirable.

Only two days after the launch of LIMS, SIFC introduced its fourth prefabricated project, “the Green Pakistan initiative,” aimed at bringing in billions of dollars in investment in Pakistan in months, if not days.

As an impact of the restoration of the IMF program, deposits were rerolled by China, KSA and UAE, the stock exchange which saw one of its most depressing moments during the tenure of this government rebounded with vengeance and broke many previous records.

The Rupees showed a sign of life and made substantial gains against the dollar.  The Prime Minister, and PDM took a sigh of relief after the economy was back on track and gave them enough confidence to announce general elections as per constitution.

The Prime Minister overcame the most critical barrier before committing to elections. He effectively neutralized the noisy, overbearing, arrogant, and intoxicated PTI Chairman, whose popularity was reaching new heights across the country with no precedent in the past or present.

Riding the popular wave, he was overconfident in winning elections with a big majority whenever they were held, and all previous polls supported his estimates. With his legendary cool and calm demeanor, Prime Minister vanquished him politically and administratively. 

First, he persuaded him to quit the National Assembly and leave the floor of the parliament completely at the mercy of the PDM, who then brought many amendments in many laws that suited their objectives of first remaining in power, exonerating their leadership from corruption charges, weakening the NAB and judiciary, and bringing in necessary legislations in election laws to grill the opposition and ensure smooth sailing to the government.

The Prime Minister outmaneuvered the PTI chairman with the support of the former army chief by pushing him to dissolve the KPK and Punjab assemblies, which he did because of his demonstrated lack of political savviness and exposed himself to a slew of hazards. 

After establishing his own caretaker governments, the PM deployed the full state apparatus against the PTI chairman and the PTI, inflicting lasting damage on them. The final nail in the coffin was driven by the unfortunate incident of May 9 when over 200 defense installations were attacked by the angry mobs, most likely as a result of premeditated planning devised by retired army generals.

He has put everything in order including making a fundamental change in the election laws and announcement of election date by the Election Commission.

The next obstacle was the superior judiciary, which was perceived to be on the side of the PTI Chairman and the PTI, and which allegedly thwarted many government plans and initiatives to fix the PTI Chairman and the PTI.

The Prime Minister launched a three-pronged attack on the Judiciary and realigned it successfully. The government, legislatures and politicians, with the tacit support of the establishment, succeeded in creating an irreparable rift between the sitting judges of the supreme court.

They did everything in their power to undermine, insult, and undercut each other, providing the government, legislature, and politicians with much-needed fuel to criticize the judiciary, disobey its specific orders, and even successfully prevent it from carrying out its constitutional duties and contempt of court proceedings against the government which could have been the end of this government, like that of Yousaf Raza Gilani.

Another challenge for the Prime Minister was to maintain the establishment in good spirit. There were many don’ts but few do’s when dealing with the establishment: don’t question their authority, don’t interfere with the way political and law and order assets are handled, and don’t create a financial liquidity crunch for them.

The few dos were straightforward: act when they say and stop when they say. During his brief tenure, the Prime Minister was able to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the dos and don’ts, and was able to use the clout and efficacy of the army to secure financial assistance from China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as attracting substantial investment from KSA and UAE, and above all, use their wrath to ensure the PTI chairman and ground PTI.

Media was the next adversary that the Prime Minister subdued with great precision by employing both carrots and sticks.  Identical measures were taken against social media.

The social media companies were instructed to expunge and prohibit the uploading of videos and other content with political overtones. This allowed the government to entirely realign traditional and social media.

Shahbaz Sharif has improved his resume and acquired a great deal of confidence to reapply for the premiership position. His ability to overcome all obstacles necessary to win the election within 16 months is admirable. 

He successfully neutralized the PTI Chairman and the PTI, realigned the judiciary, NAB and the media, restored the economy, attracted substantial investment, kept the establishment in high spirits, and maintained the unity of the PDM.

After creating all necessary enabling conditions, it was time to announce elections on time, as any delay would have allowed the PTI chairman to gather strength and the party to resurrect.

In Pakistan, you never know when the wind’s direction will change for the best or for the worse. – The writer is former Press Secretary to the President of Pakistan, former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, and former MD, SRBC.

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