Like Ms Aseefa Bhutto during the tenure of the last government, Ms Maryam Nawaz has been made honourary chairperson of a government scheme. While Ms Bhutto was simply the face of the polio campaign, Ms Sharif’s involvement in the Prime Minister’s Youth Business Scheme is extensive, from planning through to implementation. In and of itself, neither is a crime. But the impression that such positions are granted to boost or build the political profile of the person on the posters is inescapable.

Good intentions aside, the reliance on family relations of those in power, to serve as symbols of state projects, is an unhealthy and unnecessary tradition. The fact that Ms Sharif took the stage with her father could not be forgotten, despite her obvious poise, the ease with which she delivered her speech, and the quiet confidence with which she was prepared to face questions. Ms Sharif has previously been heading her family’s charity and welfare organizations, with considerable success. None of the posters of the business scheme, so far, carry her image — a very good thing. But the fact that the PML-N could find none other than Ms Sharif in whom to repose their trust, is indicative not only of a lack of human resource, but also on the reliance of the party leadership on family members, in whom the PM can place ‘unconditional trust’. This is not an effective method of governance. Family members, and close relations, despite every good intention, cannot replace professionals in the practicalities of the job. Whether ‘honourary’, or ‘symbolic’, or performing the function gratis, the fact that it is Ms Sharif who has been selected as the honourary chairperson, and not anyone else, is a political favour bestowed, not an absolute necessity, as the party has tried to portray.

Ms Sharif has better chance of leading the PML-N forward, than any of the other young leadership the party has offered up so far. She is educated, articulate and female representation in a fairly conservative order (even within the PML-N). Her entry into the political arena has been awaited, and is welcomed. One can only hope it would have been in the real arena — i.e. parliament — and not thinly disguised as an ‘honourary’ position on the sidelines. Ms Sharif can, and will succeed in the thick of it, where she ought to be.