The wait is over and the nation now knows who is to be at the national helm — at least for the next 45 days or approximately the time it takes for Shahbaz Sharif to get elected to Parliament. It is to be the former petroleum minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who has temporary charge, a man selected presumably as a safe pair of hands and unlikely to rock the political boat. As expected Shahbaz Sharif is to step down as the chief minister of Punjab creating a vacancy there that may be filled by another member of the family, Hamza Sharif, son of Shahbaz. It has taken a little over 24 hours to set in place a transition scenario and the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif has proved to consolidate the Sharif family’s hold on power in Punjab rather than degrade it.
Despite the political turmoil the country has remained largely calm and all the political parties have called for restraint, a call for once being heeded. Predictions of chaos appear to be unfounded. For the now ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif there will be a lower public profile but he is not going to disappear and will take his place behind the arras, because a man with three incomplete terms as PM may have useful advice for his younger brother. What could change is the composition of the cabinet, many of whom are now deselected and it may be that Shahbaz Sharif will want his own placemen and women close to hand. All the prime ministerial advisers will be replaced and some familiar faces may find themselves out to pasture.
In the short to medium term little is likely to change in the national political architecture. The same characters with the same agendas and aspirations are in play. The balance of power in parliament is unaffected. There will be an election around this time next year with the PML-(?) likely to hold on to Punjab and thus the federal government. The Panama Papers affair will gradually recede and elective feudalism, the local iteration of democracy, will continue its untroubled way.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2017.