After almost a decade, Shahbaz Sharif became the first militarily-ousted head of government to make a return to that very post. Heartiest felicitations are due to him. We need to honour his courage and determination. His undying zeal to clear his name and seek justice from the nation's courts throughout his period of exile, denying all charges, prompted his abortive attempt to return to Pakistan. Only to be illegally denied entry to his country, in blatant abuse of a superior court judgement. Almighty Allah, the Most Beneficent, Most Merciful has his own special ways of dealing with injustice and wrong. Despite having been denied the right to participate in the February 18 elections, Shahbaz stuck to the vow not to approach the courts at the time for relief and tolerated injustice once again. The results turned the tide. Given literally a month to campaign the Sharifs' PML-N stormed the polls, with even greater majority than they had expected. Poetic justice is that today, Shahbaz is back in the seat. The goal posts have changed radically since his ouster. The job facing him is possibly even more gruelling and greater in dimension than before. There has undoubtedly been growth during the immediate past, at least in the aspirations of the people if not in real economic terms. With the increased affluence of the middle and upper middle classes through the consumer targeted policies of the previous government, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown immensely. This needs to be addressed immediately. In his maiden speech, Shahbaz Sharif acknowledged the shortcomings, "Putting an end to illiteracy, poverty and corruption would be the top priority of the coalition government in the Punjab." Most heartening was the fact that he announced declaring an emergency as far as education was concerned. For years we heard of the scheme launched by his predecessor, Parha Likha Punjab, only to regrettably learn eventually that the money meant for that scheme was being squandered by that party on non-development expenses. The issues go beyond just education. Food shortage being the most critical. People continue to line up to receive flour, the staple food. One must applaud the fact that Shahbaz has vowed to strengthen the agricultural sector and promised to control the menace of inferior medicines being used for human beings, animals and crops. The Punjab is historically the granary of the sub-continent and this continues unabated. There is a huge power shortage with immediate gains not a real possibility. Industrial production is not up to par resulting in a huge current account deficit. In terms of industry during the 1977-1996 period the focus of investment had visibly shifted from the south of the country and the trend continued subsequently. Greater emphasis will be needed to ensure that real growth in the manufacturing sector becomes a reality. Only then can unemployment be addressed. Mr Sharif's political role, his natural style of governance, will be the one most affected by the changed scenario. His previous stint in office was during the period when Islamabad was governed not only by the same party, but with his brother as prime minister. One will not be off the mark in suggesting he was "all in all." Today he has to carry a political party that was his bitterest enemy until the Charter of Democracy. With the obvious "differ over modus operandi" scenario staring the coalition in the mouth and, especially, with the judges' long march in full swing, keeping the coalition intact will be a huge challenge in itself. But, Shahbaz has grown in stature, matured immensely. If anyone can exercise caution and wise counsel today in Pakistan, it is he. On February 7, 1989 Shahbaz addressed a business communication to me which he closed, "I am confident of your usual magnanimity." Let me quickly pass the onus of this magnanimity on to him today. As president of the PML-N, he is expected to think beyond the Punjab. His role as chief minister does not limit him from considering the needs of the entire country. A thinking process essential for seamless growth and integration of national development. There has to be a strategy for the Punjab to play the role of "big brother" to the smaller, less developed provinces. For the eight years past government has failed to finalise the NFC award. It is widely attributed to the weakness of the Musharraf government to face the challenge of the Punjab in agreeing to a formula that would encroach upon its share in distribution of the award. Punjab's and to a lesser degree NWFP's reluctance to resolve issues has been the greatest deterrent. Excellent proposals, especially the Hafeez Shaikh proposal of 2002, have been disregarded without any sense prevailing. Similarly, the issue of Kalabagh has dominated the political divide without resolution. The determined stand on this issue led by an exceedingly frustrated and aggravated Musharraf was unable to resolve the issue. The new coalition government at the centre has announced that Kalabagh has been dropped. Mian Shahbaz has, however, once again sought and asked for consensus. One must add where there is a will there is a way. If the government is keen to sit on the table and address the fears, genuine to a large extent, there is a good possibility that positives could emerge. In fact, it is imperative that the PML-N quickly evolves a strategy for the province of Sindh in order to ensure that the party plays a national role. The government of the Punjab, Shahbaz's coalition government, must act in aid of Sindh's development programme by providing expertise and assistance that may not be easily available locally. Apart from ensuring that water is appropriately shared in a just and equitable manner. We shall be looking to Shahbaz to rise to the occasion, as a national leader, in tackling these important issues. He has the wisdom, certainly the knowledge, of evolving a strategy that will do this. If the NFC does not work, cannot work, than he should undertake the studies required to adopt a system based on the Horizontal Fiscal Equalisation model followed in Australia, Germany, Canada and even Japan. This may hit the Punjab directly in terms of grants from the centre as the very basis of this model subscribes to those with the lowest capacity of fund generation receiving the most. The Punjab is a developed province with natural endowments fully tapped to give it the revenue generation required to keep pace with required 21st century development. The other provinces are not that lucky. This, Mian Sahib, is where magnanimity is required and expected. And I know for certain that it is not lacking where you are concerned. Tragically on the downside of the decade, Musharraf held a selected press conference which was reminiscent of the "yeh kursi bohat tagri hai" (this seat is very strong), scenario of 1977. A foreign correspondent in Islamabad wrote in a UAE daily, "The man who enjoyed what he once described as "total control" was reduced to conceding that his political life-span was finite. But the formerly puff-chested, self-styled dada geer - Urdu for tough guy - knew he had to pull off an impersonation of his former self". Dignity demands of one held in high esteem, even if that was a long time ago now, to bid farewell. As a very close relative apparently said to him, "What will it take?" E-mail: