A NEW SHARIF IN TOWN
Take Nawaz, turn him inside out, chuck out a few years, throw on some headgear, and you get the younger brother. Shahbaz Sharif is always up at 6 am, functions on four or less hours of sleep, never misses his morning swim, speaks fluent German and Arabic, is even considered a ladies man, but unlike his big bro, he ain’t no Nero.
Known for his celebrated ‘Punjab Speed’ brand of governance—now local jargon for a quick turnaround of developmental projects—Shahbaz is the permanent running back to Nawaz’s quarterback. Although announced, it’s not clear if he will take over from Nawaz in Islamabad: his aides think if Shahbaz leaves Lahore, the Sharifs might just lose Fortress Punjab.
His play during the Panama investigation signals his intentions. The JIT report says he ‘distanced himself’ from the story about the Gulf Steel Mill tailored by his family. And in the middle of the Dawn leaks debacle, when his brother’s office arranged for a story detailing an argument between Shahbaz and the ISI chief, he was the first one to reject it and move away from the crime scene.
The brass likes him for his nononsense sense of governance and his ability to always keep the backdoor open with GHQ. Shahbaz’s survival will be the ultimate litmus test of what remains of the Sharifs’ power.