With PML-N success pretty much assured in the presidential election, the only intriguing part in the episode is why the ruling party, or Sharifs, are in such a hurry to see the back of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Especially at a time when Zardari has become a harmless soul, evident when he did not think twice before following the advice of prime minister while terminating Fasih Bukhari, once his own choice for the NAB chairman’s slot.
So the question being begged is why is the government showing much urgency in the presidential election? The government wrote a letter inquiring the Election Commission of Pakistan when it would issue the schedule of election and the latter complied instantly without taking any time despite the electoral college was not yet complete.
And now that the schedule has been publicised, the party’s entire focus has shifted to the presidential contest, so much so that the top leaders have put off all major decisions until after September 8.
All eyes are set on who is going to be the Nawaz Sharif’s choice for the top office, so ceremonial and yet so important for the any political dispensation given the country’s past history.
Already there is talk of somebody from the smaller provinces.
Some PML-N leaders are advising the Sharifs to go for someone really close to them. However, some party circles went to the extent of advising the top man to be someone from within the family.
‘Why not follow the Zardari model this time?” these circles submitted before the top leadership in a debate taking place in the party.
“Like President Zardari opted to man the presidency, why cannot Nawaz Sharif himself follow suit and fill Zardari’s shoes,” it has been argued.
The prospect of Nawaz becoming the president has several advantages for the party.
First, it would shut doors on all several conspiracies that trace their genesis to the Presidency. In the past, successive presidents became pawn in the hands of the establishment in overthrowing political governments, be it the PPP or PML-N and whether it was Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Farooq Leghari both sent elected political governments packing by being hand-in-glove with the military.
Nawaz had a bitter experience in its dealings with the military and presidency, probably more than anybody else.
Some political analysts say there still persists a psychological barrier between the two state institutions and the Sharifs are conscious of the fact.
Even a lame duck president like Rafique Tarar and heavy mandate could not save the PML-N’s last government from the wrath of military under Pervez Musharraf.
A palpable advantage of Nawaz in the presidency would be that he would ward off all machinations and set the stage the for PML-N government to complete its term.
Second, despite being a ceremonial office after the 18th Amendment, Nawaz would still be very much in the system, more influential than even the prime minister, as indicated by the experience in the last five years. He would be the one wielding veto right in all important political and strategic matters.
Nawaz is already very relaxed, exhibiting a laid back approach in running the government as if his heart is after something else.
He has confided to some close friends that he finds no charm being the prime minister anymore.
Shahbaz Sharif is everywhere, in Islamabad and in Lahore. He is in every important meeting, even instrumental in organising some important meetings featuring the prime ministers and others.
Nawaz took him to ISI headquarters when no other chief minister was invited.
It seems that he spends more time in the federal capital than in the provincial capital, visiting Islamabad sometimes twice a day. His official helicopter has made his life easier, making it possible to travel so frequently to the capital. The tag of de-facto prime minister has already been attached to him.
Within the party, there are murmurs that Shahbaz enjoys all the limelight by design.
Third, Nawaz still will be on the top, enjoying all the perks and protocols and interacting with the heads of states.
As such, the prospect of becoming president sounds a highly attractive one for Sharifs.
But there are disadvantages as well. Who will be the prime minister will be the primary concern of Nawaz.
Keeping all the big offices within the clan would not be good idea, but then again there can be hardly any interest more important that party interest.