Jati Umra is scurrying with activity these days – with most of the federal cabinet dropping by to check in with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’ (PML-N) “real” Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, it feels as if the capital of the country has shifted from Islamabad to Lahore. It is not surprising, as the city is the stage for the party’s next challenge – the NA-120 election.

During one of these high-powered meetings it was decided that federal minister Pervez Malik will supervise the election campaign in the constituency, where Sharif’s spouse Kalsoom Nawaz is contesting against Dr Yasmin Rashid of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The federal minister is an elected representative from Lahore and close associate of the Sharif family, making him a solid choice for this vital task.

Yet, Hamza Shahbaz, PML-N’s focal person in the Punjab Assembly and the architect of the last two by-election victories in Lahore was passed over for this important assignment. Hamza Shahbaz – who was present at the meeting – was asked to “assist” the campaign later, and that too on the insistence of Pervez Malik himself. One can only wonder why the PML-N leadership would build a new team to lead this important campaign instead of putting trust in what has proven to be a winning formula in Punjab.

Shehbaz Sharif was slated to be the party’s next leader, as well as Prime Minister after 45 days of a Khaqan Abbassi premiership; the news was announced to the media and his elevation meticulously planned – before Shahid Khaqan Abbassi’s tenure as Prime Minister was announced to have been extended.

In such a time when Nawaz Sharif and several members of the family are besieged by possible cases opening against them as a result of the JIT investigation, it would be advisable to retain a winning team in government, while the NAB cases are dealt with. The strongest possible choices can only be Hamza Shehbaz to plan how to secure NA 120, and current Chief Minister Punjab as president of the PMLN to keep the party together under a strong and respected hand.

Meticulous planning and a consciousness of the optics of every move is required. Or else the party organisers and leadership will be laying the internal workings of the party open to speculation and criticism. And in certain cases it may well be just criticism too.