SHAHBAZ SHARIF- THE COMPASSIONATE DOYEN OF PUNJAB
By Qudrat Ullah
In my opinion, Shahbaz Sharif is a man of compassionate destiny who is more known for his hard work, uncompromisingly firm about merit and transparency; while good governance is his most conspicuous hallmark. He belongs to an industrial family of Lahore, which is more known for its hard-work and Islamic identity.
When the elder scion of Ittefaq family, Nawaz Sharif entered into the political arena in the early 80s, the younger Shahbaz was toiling in the industrial business.
The political ingress of Shahbaz Sharif, however, was without any political or ideological fanfare, but he had the explicit experience of running the industrial empire. Shahbaz Sharif soon emerged as a hard task master and proved his worth in the politics of Lahore which was ideologically divided among the tangling rightists and the liberals.
From the outset, Shahbaz Sharif has been a man of vigor and energy and he provided much needed political support to Pakistan Muslim League by organizing the party in provincial metropolis. The discern abilities and supporting role of younger Shahbaz helped Nawaz Sharif in many ways- he helped organize PML in the province, worked hard to bring efficiency and improvement in working of the government machinery and induced good governance which was a new thing then.
The decision to appoint comparatively naïve Shahbaz Sharif as Chief Minister in 1997 was rather a “surprise” for aspiring politicians as well as the political pundits, while ‘Chaudhrys of Gujrat’ were utterly unnerved.
The first stint of Shahbaz Sharif proved the choice as correct and he worked very hard to introduce a coherent system of good governance in the province. His reforms, especially in the areas of education, healthcare, C&W and public-welfare sectors, were innovative and public friendly which set new benchmarks.
For the first time, he practically made the bureaucracy and the administrative machinery answerable to the people, and introduced and strengthened political culture of tolerance and vehemently discouraged corruption and inefficiency. All field postings were made on merit, keeping in view the past record and management skills of officers.
There is no doubt that October 12, 1999 is the most inauspicious date in Pakistan which not only discontinued the process of democracy but also dampened down the process of good governance. The eight years of mismanagement, corruption, inefficiency and cronyism ruined and destroyed each and every institution and the inept and underling rulers made Punjab a land where rule of jungle was law of the day.
The decision of the voters on the day of February 18, 2008 elections was in support of a political leader whose legacy was known for its immaculate track record and public service. However, the belated situation arising out of the February 18 elections was politically problematic and complicated; the unexpected assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and subsequent commotion was a turning point which helped the two main political parties to reaffirm their future political course of action.
As a result of political dialogue between PPP and the PML (N), Shahbaz Sharif emerged as the consensus Punjab Chief Minister after both the parties decided to go along for the larger interest of the people. Because of the broadmindedness of Shahbaz Sharif, Senior Minister Raja Riaz Ahmad of PPP has always spoken high of him, expressing satisfaction and confidence over the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif. During the de-seating of Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani also spoke high of him and expressed his regrets.
Coalition government is a unique experience in the political history of Punjab as the earlier political foes are now united for the greater cause of democracy. However, Punjab Chief Ministership is not a smooth sailing now as there are many new hurdles and unwarranted misconceptions. In this situation, Shahbaz Sharif has to walk on the political tight rope very tactfully and he has made utmost efforts to keep the coalition intact.
Actually, eight years corruption still poses many hurdles and the new political realities are very much fiddly which needed tangible handling. Shahbaz Sharif has tried his level best to reintroduce the concept of corruption-free governance, aimed at facilitating the indigent masses, which have lost every hope.
Another characteristic of his leadership is that Shahbaz gives full freedom to the field officers to carry out their duties without any undue interference. But he has also shown the doors to the inefficient field officers who failed in managing Ramadan Bazaars.
He is very much touchy about law and order and price situation and takes wholehearted interest in improving law and order and price situation, as no civil society can progress and develop without it. Shahbaz Sharif has made it a point that the field officers must remain neutral and act apolitically, because no sustained democracy can flourish in a system of corruption and nepotism.
There is no doubt that Shahbaz Sharif is a true follower of M.A Jinnah who asked the people to work, work and work. Continuous work is unequivocal hallmark of Shahbaz Sharif’s personality and he keeps the government machinery active by his personal checking and interaction with the people. His continuous touring of different cities, to monitor price and food items’ availability during Ramadan, has helped in price stability.
Shahbaz Sharif has a penchant for the deprived and the vulnerable of other provinces as well. That’s why he has donated a cardiology hospital for the poor patients of Balochistan who cannot afford to travel to other provinces for their medical treatment. He has also given 30000 ton free wheat to Sindh to help overcome their food needs. Punjab has also provided ample material support, medical equipment, medicines, doctors and paramedics and other items of daily use including tents to the internally displaced people of Malakand Division.
Law and order cannot be improved without an efficient police force and for this purpose; the Chief Minister has increased salaries and allowances of police force to encourage them to work with more commitment.
The political future of Shahbaz Sharif is bright and keeping in view the political vision, untiring efforts and track record of Shahbaz Sharif, it is expected that he will achieve the goal of good governance and public welfare in Punjab province where people want a messiah like him to get rid of poverty, unemployment and disarray.
(Mr. Qudrat Ullah is a PhD fellow with Punjab University, Lahore)