Shehbaz Sharif defies critics, hangs on, but 2023 is going to be tougher

Shehbaz Sharif, the current sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan is well known as “Shehbaz Speed” for his standout development work in the country’s largest province Punjab, during his multiple tenures as Chief Minister.

But the year 2022 became the year of forward movement in politics from provincial setup to a federal setup for Shehbaz Sharif, who, after being elected as Member of the National Assembly (MNA) during the 2018 general elections, became the leader of the opposition benches against the Imran Khan regime.

Shehbaz Sharif, who comes from the political family of the Sharifs, whose elder brother and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led his political party, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) to historical victories in elections and became the Prime Minister, remained as the second in command to Nawaz Sharif, which many believe was the power behind the Sharif politics.

After Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to jail on corruption references and removed from premiership and as PML-N’s head, it was Shehbaz Sharif who took over as the President of the party.

Shehbaz Sharif’s entry into the federal setup as opposition leader was the first step towards the pathway for the ruling premiership as after ousting Imran Khan through the no-confidence vote in the parliament, which was again headed by Shehbaz Sharif along with other coalition political parties; Shehbaz Sharif was made the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

While for many, Shehbaz Sharif’s premiership was supposed to be shortlived as the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) the 13-party anti-Imran Khan alliance took power with an agenda to hold early elections in the country; Imran Khan’s uproar among the masses against his ouster gave way to Shehbaz Sharif’s time in office to complete its constitutional term.

Shehbaz Sharif’s year 2022 has been a mixed experience of financial challenges, climate change catastrophe and a daunting political rivalry of Imran Khan, who has kept the government on its toes in every possible way.

From being forced to take immediate steps to contain inflation, which has risen to alarmingly high levels, revive the stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Funding Facility (EFF) to Pakistan, confront a climate change catastrophe, triggering heavy extended rain, flash floods and destruction, drowning one-third of the country, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land and affecting more than 35 million people, Shehbaz Sharif has had to manage the challenges effectively, despite the looming dark clouds of uncertainty about his time in office and the free-fall of the country’s economy.

The year 2022 does not hold any success story for the premier, but it certainly enforces major challenges for him as the burden and onus of financial constraints left ignored by Imran Khan’s government, came down falling onto the shoulders of Shehbaz Sharif with questions being raised over the reasons why Imran Khan’s government was ousted if inflation, bankruptcy, price hikes and overall management of the country’s crippling and cash-strapped economy were not planned.

On the political grounds, Shehbaz Sharif faces a massive challenge from the “roaring” Imran Khan, who demands early elections in the country and accuses the Shehbaz Sharif coalition government as a bank of thieves.

Shehbaz Sharif is also under severe criticism for seeking financial support from the international community as his appeals for assistance are termed as “begging” and “pleading”.

While Shehbaz Sharif’s year 2022 in Pakistan’s politics has been broadly filled with difficult financial challenges in reference to the country’s economy, the catastrophic floods and the street power shows by his arch rival Imran Khan, he and his government have certainly worked towards normalising relations with global powers like the US, Europe, China and the UAE.

The foreign policy of Pakistan, which suffered severely after Imran Khan’s narrative of US-conspired regime change to oust his government, which badly dented the Pakistan-US relations and affected Pakistan’s global position; the credit of its slow but positive revival certainly goes to the Shehbaz Sharif led government, who has affectively been presenting its case to the world, with clarity of the fact that the climate change catastrophe, which has swept away at least $40 billion worth of the country’s economy with it, cannot be managed, handled and revived without the help of international lenders and global support.

Going forward, as the year 2022 comes to an end, it brought with it major challenges for Shehbaz Sharif and is expected to keep him on his toes during 2023 in terms of financial challenges, political instabilities, peace and security based confrontations and along with it, the preparations for the next general elections in a way that should bring him back into power for the next tenure.

The year 2022 and 2023 certainly holds daunting tasks for the statesman.

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