The PML-N government once again finds itself in troubled waters over allegations of nepotism. The Lahore High Court, hearing a petition challenging the appointment of Maryam Nawaz Sharif as Chairperson of the Prime Minister Youth Loan Programme, appears set to decide in favour of the petitioner. The court has adjourned the hearing till Friday, to allow the government to introduce change and in view of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s absence on account of his visit to Germany. During the proceedings, Justice Manzoor Ali Shah lambasted the government for making inadequate appointments under the garb of executive prerogative and raised questions over non-compliance on procedures.

Maryam’s appointment is just one of the many examples of the PML-N’s flawed approach towards politics and governance. Over time, the party leadership has earned considerable notoriety over its inability to look beyond family members for suitable individuals. Hamza Shahbaz Sharif enjoys a rather special status in Punjab, where he chairs meetings and participates in several affairs absent any legal or constitutional authority. That he is Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son is unfortunately sufficient. Brothers-in-law, cousins, children, nephews and nieces – the Sharif brothers have inducted all sorts of family members to serve the country. It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that they are accused of running the country like a family business; constantly making arbitrary decisions and handing over important portfolios to relatives no matter how poorly-equipped they may be to handle them.

Such blatant nepotism not only has negative effects on matters of governance that directly impact the lives of citizens, it undermines the entire system that ought to be run on the principle of meritocracy. This outdated approach weakens institutions, and if they are already weak, it ensures that they may never be allowed to evolve. Talented individuals are aplenty who have worked extremely hard to aspire for important positions. Not being related to the Sharifs shouldn’t be another hurdle they must overcome. Favouritism is also damaging the party itself, where disgruntled party workers constantly find themselves being sidelined and unacknowledged. It is important that the dynamic duo realises that times are changing, and changes accordingly. This is not the era for kings and princes.