LAHORE - If October 12, 1999 was a day which led to the fall of second PML-N government, November 27, 2013 would be remembered in history as the day when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took two important decisions that further strengthened his political position for a longer innings.

He appointed a new Army Chief- who is also a “Sharif” and a good addition to the ruling Sharifs- at the cost of the principle of seniority the third-time prime minister had earlier promised to adhere to.

The same day, the government got approved from the president the appointment of the new Chief Justice of Pakistan – which though was a foregone conclusion would reduce the outgoing Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to a lame duck because of the timing of the move.

The announcement that Justice Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jilani would be the new CJP, which came about two weeks before the retirement of Justice Chaudhry is in sharp contrast to the strategy adopted by the government for the appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). The new COAS was nominated only a day before Gen Kayani serves out the second of two terms of three years each.

Political expediency determined the timing of both the decisions.

The prime minister did not want anyone to know beforehand who would lead the half-million-strong army of the Islamic world’s only nuclear power. So he delayed the announcement for as long as he could. But since Chief Justice Chaudhry seemed determined to embarrass the prime minister in the missing persons’ case, Mr Sharif thought it fit to have the name of the new CJP approved much before.

To further ensure that he would not face any embarrassment at the hands of the outgoing CJP, the prime minister also abdicated the charge of the portfolios of defence and law, giving them as additional responsibilities to Khwaja Asif and Pervaiz Rashid, who are already holding ministerial slots of water and power and information, respectively.

In the missing persons’ case, CJP Iftikhar has ordered the prime minister to personally appear before him in his capacity as defence minister. Now, if the personal appearance of the defence minister becomes unavoidable, it is Khwaja Asif who will face the court, not the prime minister.

As things stand, President Mamnoon Hussain is a humble servant of the House of Sharifs. The new army chief is also expected to be a loyalist. The judiciary under the leadership of Justice Jilani (who the media says is a gentleman) is also not likely to create any problem for the government. The ruling coalition has a good position in both Houses of Parliament that can be improved further by taking some more parties into the setup.

So, there is nothing to worry about. The situation is completely under control. The Sharifs will have a freehand to do whatever they want to. There can’t be a more comfortable situation for any ruler.

Had the late Mian Muhammad Sharif been alive today, he would have been very happy to see his sons in power for a third time and their decision to induct another Sharif as army chief.

As for the nomination of the new CJP, observers say it has a message for Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. He must know that politicians take various decisions to serve their own interests.

If Mr Nawaz Sharif had played a role in the campaign launched to mount pressure on the PPP-led coalition to reinstate all judges (including Justice Chaudhry) sacked by General Musharraf, it was the requirement of the PML-N interests. Had he not participated in the movement he would not have been able to get the kind of relief that he got from the judiciary after the reinstatement of the sacked judges.

The setup that worked under the leadership of Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar would not have done for the Sharifs what other judges did for him. The judges were restored by then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on March 16, 2009. And it was on July 17, 2009 that a five-member bench of Supreme Court unanimously acquitted Nawaz Sharif from airline hijacking. Many had said then that it was an extraordinary favour to the PML-N President about after 10 years of his conviction.

Headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, the apex court bench that acquitted Mr Sharif comprised Justice Nasirul Mulk Mengal, Justice Ghulam Rabbani, Justice Mohammad Moosa K Leghari and Justice Sheikh Hakim Ali.

Mr Sharif was sentenced to life imprisonment twice by a Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court in April 2000, after it found him guilty of refusing to allow a PIA flight carrying Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf, the army chief at that time, along with 200 other passengers – to land at the Karachi Airport on October 12, 1999.

Justice Chaudhry should also spare some time to think why the NAB chairman and the bureaucrats he wants proceeded against have proceeded on leave and are waiting for his retirement. They believe that the post-Iftikhar Chaudhry period would be very different from now and they would be able to resume their duties.