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Shahbaz Sharif: The Rise of a Strict Administrator Under Nawaz's Shadow

Over the tenure of the last 10 years as the chief minister of Punjab, the largest province in Pakistan, Shahbaz has gained the reputation of heading an extremely transparent government — one where all bureaucrats are accounted for and where all the work gets done — with due regard, without any compromises.

Aishwarya Kumar | News18.com@aishwaryak03

Updated:July 25, 2018, 11:06 AM IST
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Shahbaz Sharif: The Rise of a Strict Administrator Under Nawaz's Shadow
A file photo of Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz Sharif.
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Two weeks ago, Shahbaz Sharif went all out on the streets in Lahore protesting against his brother Nawaz Sharif and his niece Maryam’s arrest, but at the same time leading the thousands of PML(N) supporters to welcome their supremo.

Shahbaz who is the party’s PM candidate for the elections, claimed that the crowd pouring onto the streets was not for him, but in support for his brother.

That’s perhaps where the Punjab chief minister lags. Has he ever gotten out of the shadow of his brother? Will he ever? The questions looms unanswered, while the strict administrator in Shahbaz has ensured a following for himself, even if it is no match for Nawaz.

Over the tenure of the last 10 years as the chief minister of Punjab, the largest province in Pakistan, Shahbaz has gained the reputation of heading an extremely transparent government — one where all bureaucrats are accounted for and where all the work gets done — with due regard, without any compromises.

A workaholic, Shahbaz is infamous for making officers work for extremely long hours: starting work at 6 am — after letting them off only three hours earlier. However, his province has recorded accelerated growth and investment at an unprecedented rate in Pakistan.

In fact, when Shahbaz recently said that he would take Pakistan ahead of India, there were many who believed him. PML(N)’s campaign proudly glorifies the tremendous work the Minister has done in Punjab, on their posters.  Apart from leading an outcry of justice for Nawaz and Maryam, Shahbaz has also won many hearts by improving infrastructure in the province.

Shahbaz is credited for re-imagining the Lahore Transport Company and introducing the ambitious Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system which has been further expanded to Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The electricity projects in Punjab have all been undertaken under Shahbaz’s watch, exactly how he promised.  With a record to only boast of, the minister has promised to turn the fortunes of a place in no time.

Known for his micro-management, Shahbaz is also the force behind the Daanish schools.These schools were established in 2010 and annually, 110 students are admitted. While there are cases of irregularities around the model, the schools have helped many people access free education.

While his role in empowerment of the local bodies or rather, the lack of it has not rung the right bells, it is his stand on the relations with the establishment (military), that have been a cause of concern, if not celebration for many in the country. His open statements on efforts to reconcile with the Army is in contrast to what his elder brother stood for. While Nawaz has been holding the branch out for civilian supremacy, Shahbaz chose to tread on a safer route, a middle path.

The most striking aspect of all his speeches, is his grand-proposal to have a sit down with all stakeholders. And yet again, the question remains as to how much of this will be actually accepted by the people? The people, for whom Shahbaz will always remain Nawaz’s younger brother. While he may say that he doesn’t even dream of replacing his elder brother, it is this comparison with Nawaz that defines Shahbaz’s real litmus test.

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