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There is muted concern over the selection of Maryam Nawaz Sharif as Nawaz Sharif's political heir within the family as well as amongst some senior leaders of the party. This was the outcome of background discussions with PML-N leaders by Business Recorder.

PML-N leaders were agreed that Nawaz Sharif has been proactively promoting his daughter as his heir and, without seeking any input from the party leadership, Maryam Nawaz engaged in critical activities, including running the media cell, as well as key decisions with her father's consent.

"Majority of the 47-strong new cabinet were given portfolios on Maryam's recommendations even though she was not present during discussions between Nawaz Sharif and senior members of the party in Murree which has further deepened unease in the party," a senior member of the party said.

He added that some senior party leaders including Chaudhry Nisar Ali have repeatedly expressed serious reservations over recent major decisions taken by Nawaz Sharif on his daughter's recommendations, including taking a confrontational approach with institutions and the Islamabad to Lahore rally via the GT road.

The decision to field Kalsoom Nawaz in NA-120, the seat left vacant following Nawaz Sharif's disqualification, according to party insiders, further exposed the strategy of the elder Sharif to keep power within his immediate family and not allow his younger brother - his long time political henchman and right hand man - Shahbaz Sharif to carry on the family's political legacy. "Fielding Kalsoom Nawaz from NA-120 simply means get her in the Prime Minister's Office and pave the way for Nawaz Sharif and his family to return to the PM House," a party insider said on condition of anonymity.

Shortly after Sharif's disqualification, it was decided in a parliamentary party meeting that Shahbaz Sharif would contest elections from NA-120 Lahore and once elected get a vote of confidence to become the Prime Minister after 45 days; later Shahbaz Sharif was sidelined by the elder Sharif, wary that his younger brother would not let Maryam Nawaz take over as Prime Minister after the 2018 elections.

Nawaz Sharif cleverly and, as per his usual tactic, got some senior party leaders to publicly state that Shahbaz Sharif was needed in Punjab if the party was to win the 2018 general elections and then, for form's sake, withdrew Shahbaz Sharif's name, PML-N leaders told Business Recorder on condition of strict anonymity. When asked about Shahbaz Sharif's response, sources said that so far he has said nothing and appears to have accepted the decision.

Sources however added that the party is being divided along those in favour of Maryam Nawaz as the heir and those against her elevation which maybe one reason why Nawaz Sharif's GT road rally is with second-tier leadership with a prominent role for members of Maryam's media cell; the exception being Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique.

Majority of the senior leaders of the party including Chaudhry Nisar and Shahbaz Sharif advised Nawaz Sharif to avoid confrontation with state institutions at the present time and return to Lahore via the Motorway, but he is clearly not heeding their advice, sources said.

Apparently taking a jibe at the media team of Maryam Nawaz, Shahbaz Sharif's wife Tehmina Durrani tweeted on Thursday that Nawaz Sharif should fire his "failed media team" and banish all sycophants from sight as they are responsible for reducing his leadership to an "under-19 game."

In another tweet, she criticized the advisors of Nawaz Sharif, saying that he should not have chosen the most "mediocre advisers while rejecting the most sincere, politically experienced and astute colleagues." It took decades for the late Benazir Bhutto to become the undisputed leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, but she proved her mantle through hectic efforts and sacrifice, PML-N sources pointed out, adding that to be the leader requires a lot more than your father's blessings.

"If somebody feels that being the First Daughter is a stepping stone to holding the leadership of a party then they should know that it is virtually impossible," said a senior PML-N leader. The PML-N leadership favouring Shahbaz Sharif told Business Recorder on condition of strict anonymity that Hamza Shahbaz is emerging as a stronger potential candidate in the second generation of the Sharif family than Maryam Nawaz

as he has been actively involved in constituency politics in Punjab for the last nine years. However, they were optimistic that Nawaz Sharif would take appropriate decisions in the coming days to keep the party intact and heed the sane advice of senior members of his party.

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