Making of a Future Leader
Her father may believe that Maryam Nawaz Sharif has still a long way to go but she certainly has the germs for leadership as she is proving in the many assignments she is currently handling.
Some political pundits predict a rather interesting change in the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) after a decade when Nawaz Sharif reaches the age of 72. They foresee Maryam Nawaz calling the shots and they have valid reasons. In 2012, it was announced that Maryam will participate in politics to assist her father in the 2013 general elections. Since then, she has been active in politics, and currently serves as an aide in the Pakistan Muslim League (N) heading the most important organ of the party -- the media cell.
According to a report published in an English language newspaper, the littleknown Strategic Media Communication Cell (SMCC), operating out of the Prime Minister’s Office is working under the watchful eye of Maryam Nawaz Sharif. Set up with the special approval of the PM as part of the information ministry in late 2015, the SMCC has since evolved into a powerful unit. Initially, the SMCC was provided with a staff of 15 people and a budgetary allocation of Rs. 20 million for the current financial year. But only recently, the information ministry sought the PM’s approval to increase the number of SMCC employees to 38. With this increase, the cell requires another Rs. 20 million to meet operating costs.
In the opinion of several government officials privy to the SMCC’s operations, the cell had actually taken over functions from the information ministry. As explained in its original summary, the SMCC was given the mandate to create favourable public opinion for the government by preparing special media campaigns. An insider told the newspaper that the cell’s entire staff had been recruited on Maryam’s recommendation, mendation, even though some of its key y members held academic qualifications ns irrelevant to communications.
Originally groomedd to fill the slot of the Foreign Minister,er, the idea was dropped when Maryam m had to resign as the Chairperson of the e Prime Minister Youth Loan Programme — a position she claimed to have been holding olding purely “as a volunteer and on an honorary basis” --- following a Lahore High Court order which asked the federalal government to replace her and devise se a transparent mechanism for fresh appointment she had to resign. The judgedge also raised queries about a uniquee combination of her degrees – M.A. (English glish Literature) and Ph.D. in Political l Science – which was presented to the court by a government lawyer wyer in support of Maryam Nawaz’sawaz’s eligibility for the position. on.
The slot of the Foreign eign Minister is still lying ing vacant despite the fact act that foreign affairs is a complicated businessss and every country y needs a full-time, , cabinet-level, officially appointed foreign minister. According to an editorial published in a leading English language daily, “There was a relatively straightforward solutionn to the problem: to usee the Senate elections in March to elevate Mr Aziz ziz or Mr Fatemi to parliament ment and hence be eligible e to become a full cabinet binet
member. For reasons best known to Mr Sharif, that opportunity was declined. Worse yet, the prime minister has done nothing to try and resolve the turf war in the foreign ministry that has hamstrung its functioning.” Is it because the Prime Minister wants to see none other than Maryam in the Foreign Office?
As a Foreign Minister she would have been responsible for implementing the state's diplomatic principles and policies and related laws and regulations; safeguarding national sovereignty, security and interests on behalf of the state; running diplomatic affairs on behalf of the state and the government; and handling diplomatic activities. Naturally, five years in the foreign office would groom her enough to step in the shoes of her father.
In an April 2012 article in Newsweek Pakistan, Maryam Nawaz was described as the new face of the PML-N. Fluent in four languages, the Newsweek article portrayed her as a progressive heir apparent of Pakistan's mainstream right-to-center PML-N. She urged youth in her address on the Quaid e Azam's birthday to play an important role in the economics and politics of Pakistan. She announced her intention to participate in politics in order to assist her father.
In fact, the much publicized Maryam Nawaz-Michelle Obama meeting was a part of her grooming. The First Lady of the United States had formally invited Maryam Nawaz Sharif for a one-on-one meeting in the White House on October 22, 2015, the day when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. The US first lady had a discussion with Maryam Nawaz about the worldwide children education programme for which they had already agreed to work. Michelle Obama informed Maryam Nawaz in August last that she would also work with her to promote education in Pakistan.
This particular meeting reminds one of the Simla Agreement signed between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on July 2, 1972. It was much more than a peace treaty seeking to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war (i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of PoWs). It was a comprehensive blue print for good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan. Under the Agreement, both countries undertook to abjure conflict and confrontation which had marred relations in the past, and to work towards the establishment of durable peace, friendship and cooperation. Benazir Bhutto also accompanied her father to that historical meeting an later led the Peoples Party as well as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Analyst Ayesha Siddiqa feels that Maryam is being groomed by Mr Sharif much like Zulfikar Bhutto trained Benazir Bhutto. This is not surprising in a country where dynastic politics is a trend. Siddiqa points out that by investing in Maryam, the Americans seem to be indicating that they see the Sharifs/PML-N as a major political force in the future.
Writes Asha'ar Rehman in Dawn, “It is remarkable just how fast Ms Maryam Nawaz has travelled on the highway to where she is, or soon will be, compared to a young Ms Benazir Bhutto travelling with her father to Shimla.” According to him, Maryam along with Ishaq Dar and Shahbaz Sharif, was responsible for running the operations of the federal government smoothly.
Politics in Pakistan is fundamentally hereditary and practically every party leader is grooming his son or daughter to step into his shoes. Assembly seats are described as ancestors’ seats, which are generally won by family members, of course through free if not fair elections. Though a political scientist may argue that elections work on the principle of free-markets and as such, by encouraging family politics, we are allowing democracy to be hijacked by a few families, the situation is not going to change even after five decades.
Born on October 28, 1973 in Lahore, after graduating from the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Maryam pursued her undergraduate studies at the Punjab University, and also earned a master's degree from there. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Cambridge University. She played a vital role in promoting higher education in Punjab and serves as the chairperson of the Board of the Sharif Medical and Dental College. In 2011, she became actively involved in national politics.
Maryam Nawaz has since 1997 been the chairperson of the Sharif Trust, founded by her grandfather Muhammad Sharif, Sharif Medical City and Sharif Education Institutes. She takes a keen interest and is directly involved in the working of the Sharif Trust and its allied institutions, including the Sharif College of Engineering & Technology, Sharif Education Complex, Sharif Model Schools for Boys and Girls, Sharif Institute of Technology and the Islamic Center.
There is no doubt that Maryam is intelligent and smart enough to understand the requirements of being a successful politician in today’s fastchanging world. She understands well that the social media has become one of the most important forums for political activism in its different forms. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube provide new ways to stimulate citizen engagement in political life, where elections and electoral campaigns have a central role.
Maryam is very effectively using social media to get closer to potential voters. Through Twitter she has been able to communicate faster and reach citizens in a more targeted manner without the intermediate role of mass media. Reactions, feedback, conversations and debates generated online as well as support and participation for offline events helps her in deciding the future course of action. Moreover the multiplication of messages posted on personal networks when shared, enables her to reach to new audiences.
Currently, Maryam is the only female leader who is playing such an effective role in the PML(N). She encourages women’s participation in politics for the development of Pakistan and takes part in different initiatives for the social, political, educational and economic development of Pakistan.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto shaking hands with Indra Gandhi at Simla in 1972.
Benazir Bhutto is on Bhutto's left.