Nawaz Sharif has left little doubt as to who he considers to be the successor to his political legacy; his daughter Maryam. She has been gradually introduced into the political functioning of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – despite consistent questions over her qualifications and normative parliamentary practice. Yet it seems in the continued absence of the Prime Minister, Maryam Nawaz has seized the the opportunity with both hands, and established herself as the de facto Prime Minister.

What started as a correspondence with the media regarding the premier's open-heart surgery, bypassing the usual channel through the Ministry of Information, is now something much different. On Monday, Maryam Nawaz met with a bloc of PML-N parliamentarians and assured the ‘annoyed’ National Assembly members that their grievances will be addressed in a timely manner, as per their expectations. Now this is a function more suited to some senior party leader or a member of the Cabinet - considering their grievances concerned distribution of federal development funds - and while it raises some eyebrows, how the PML-N chooses to organise its own party hierarchy is its own matter.

Yet when Maryam Nawaz's initiatives stray into the territory of state functions, there are bound to be problems. Not only is she permanently entrenched into the PM House as a "dependent" of Nawaz Sharif, she has been meeting members of the cabinet and receiving ambassadors and other dignitaries at the Prime Minister's official residence.

All of this begs the question, under which authority is Maryam Nawaz undertaking these actions considering she does not even hold any post in the government. Let alone the Cabinet. Questions of constitutional propriety aside, this situation also calls into question the efficacy and level of autonomy enjoyed by the Cabinet and Federal Ministers. They have not been deemed capable enough to act as the Prime Minister's deputy, nor have they challenged the imposition of the un-elected Maryam Nawaz as their superior. Under what democratic norm does the offspring of a leader hold more credibility that the leaders of the ruling party?

The root of these tensions remain the Prime Minister's extended absence from the country and the lack of any formal mechanism for such an eventuality. The sooner he returns, the better it will be for the smooth functioning of the state.