In the recently held meeting of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in London, now infamously known as the London Plan, the party elders have decided to name Shahbaz Sharif as the candidate for the position of the Prime Minister, contingent on – and this is a crucial element – Nawaz Sharif remaining disqualified to hold public office come the next general election. Out of other important decisions that the leaders of the party made, consensus on the name of Shahbaz as the candidate for the position of Prime Minister after 2018 election was the most important one – and it couldn’t have come soon enough.

While there are reasons and justifications available to PML-N on remaining indecisive on who will be the candidate for the top position, the fact remains, that their indecisiveness has left the party in a state of flux. What would have been a smooth transition from the Nawaz Sharif government to the next one, right after the Supreme Court verdict, had been unnecessarily complicated and dragged out – leading to the visible splits in the party ranks that we see today. PML-N has no one to blame for this but itself.

With this matter settled it is hoped that the party can get back to governorship while the younger Sharif prepare himself for the coming challenge. Nawaz Sharif will not be far from the limelight; in fact he will still be the de facto leader in the background, and the face of the party, a fact that should have made this decision a lot simpler than it turned out to be.

The problem seemed to be, and still is, the vague and fanciful notion that Nawaz Sharif would be able to return to the helm for 2018 – hence the contingency in Shahbaz’s otherwise triumphant moment.

As it stands, there is no legitimate way to make that happen. It will be better for followers, members, and officials of the party to accept the bitter reality that Nawaz Sharif is left with no legal option to make a comeback in the parliament. The sooner they realize it, the better. Sticking to the slogan “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif” is serving no their purpose but inflicting harm on party unity and clarity.

Has the minus-one formula worked this time? The answer is not a simple one. As the president of the party, Nawaz will exert his influence on cabinet decisions if the party comes to power in 2018 elections as well as policy. However, it is clear that with him being ousted from PM house, his powers to decide on the matters of national importance directly will be greatly reduced.