ISLAMABAD - The appearance of Ms Maryam Nawaz Sharif before the Joint Investigation Team ((JIT) probing Sharif family’s offshore wealth sparked a debate about her political role. Long viewed as the political heiress to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the JIT appearance was keenly anticipated and watched by political observers and even more closely by her political opponents.

Living up to her reputation, Maryam Nawaz spoke quite in an articulate manner. She fired barbs at her father’s political opponents in a measured and pointed manner. Her tone was defiant, her expressions well thought out and delivery was sharp. But her leaving the venue without answering journalist’s questions was certainly a disappointment.

Those who are considering her appearance in JIT as her political launching are incorrect because Maryam Nawaz is in many ways already in active politics. Her political image-building started even before the last general elections held in 2013 when she along with her first cousin MNA Hamza Shehbaz Sharif were appointed as the election campaign in-charge of the party in Lahore.

Both cousins successfully ran the elections campaign of not only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif, both contesting from Lahore, but also supplemented the party candidates’ campaigns from the city.

Since then the family has focused on the image building of Maryam Nawaz, and according to some party insiders, she regularly attended important party meetings, and the premier gives weight to her advice in important political and party decisions.

Since coming into power, the party’s image building and media strategy was also in the hands of Maryam, and setting aside the controversy shrouding it, the social media team working under the first daughter remained active and vibrant and defended the party policies effectively on almost all the available mediums: from social media websites down to television channels and newspapers.

She has also developed a team of young party parliamentarians, who highlight the party’s policies and defend the government on television channels. And one can’t ignore their role in the current Panama Papers revelations implicating the Sharif family as well. It was Maryam Nawaz’s team that had defended the Sharif family and came up with counter-narrative to the bombardment of allegations on the prime minister and his family.

At the international level, her formal launching had taken place when she went to the United States along with his father in October 2015 where she was pitched as future leader of the ruling PML-N and besides her one-on-one meeting with the then US First Lady Michelle Obama, her meetings with some important State Department and Pentagon people were also arranged.

Earlier in April 2015, to give her international exposure, she was made lady-in-waiting for the China’s First Lady Ms Peng Liyuan.

So, even though Maryam Nawaz has already dipped her toes in the political waters, her Wednesday’s appearance before the JIT has crystallised her role as the emerging leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N.