The mystery surrounding Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) next president looks to be finally resolved, with Shehbaz Sharif set to take over from the interim President Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir following an announcement on September 7. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ouster from the premiership made his replacement a necessity if the party was to contest the vacant NA-120 seat, and there were many whispers which hinted at the Chief Minister of Punjab being overlooked once more, after first being announced as the replacement for his brother in the constituency, with the decision being changed quickly.

With the current set of circumstances PML-N is facing – the disqualification of the Prime Minister and rumours abound of a rift in the Sharif family – overlooking Shehbaz Sharif yet again would not have gone unnoticed. With Nawaz Sharif and his children implicated in the Panama Papers, his younger brother remains the only logical choice of a realistic successor. The only surprise then, is the delay which was followed by this announcement, and the rumours of Nawaz Sharif looking at other potential names for the post of the presidency.

Nevertheless, it is better for the party to have finally decided to pursue the only rational course of action available – appointing and immensely popular and effective member of the Sharif family to replace Nawaz Sharif. Shehbaz Sharif is just as popular as his older brother, although virtually untested at the national level. However, his lack of experience in the federal government is not likely to affect the party in any way considering the fact that the last ten years at the helm of affairs in Punjab have seemingly entrenched the party’s support in Punjab even further – based on the good work that the Chief Minister is perceived to be doing on all fronts.

Intra-party elections in the PML-N are a mere formality: Once Nawaz Sharif announces his brother as the next PML-N President, unanimous support will be expected. What remains to be seen are the internal family dynamics which govern the ruling party – Nawaz Sharif will likely lead without office with the appointment of Shehbaz potentially galvanising Punjabi workers and supporters to kick off the next election campaign in style. With the former PM gearing up for the pre-election campaign as well – alongside other parties – the driving focus of the party leadership moving forward will be completing outstanding projects in government and strengthening its support base. It is an undeniable fact that a Sharif brother at the helm will keep PML-N an important party in the immediate future.