Economic and security challenges top Shehbaz Sharif's agenda as Pakistan's new PM

His election marks a significant shift in Pakistan's political dynamics and raises questions about the future direction of governance

Nawaz Sharif (L) leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party greets his younger brother and newly-elected Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (R) at the Parliament House in Islamabad on March 3, 2024.
Nawaz Sharif (L) leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party greets his younger brother and newly-elected Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (R) at the Parliament House in Islamabad on March 3, 2024.

Economic and security challenges top Shehbaz Sharif's agenda as Pakistan's new PM

In a momentous turn of events, Shehbaz Sharif — the seasoned politician and brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — has ascended to the position of Prime Minister for the second time.

His victory, with a decisive 201 votes in the National Assembly, signifies a significant shift in the country's political dynamics and raises questions about the future direction of governance and leadership in Pakistan.

In the intricate tapestry of Pakistan's political history, few figures command the attention and intrigue quite like Shehbaz Sharif.

A seasoned politician and the brother of former premier Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz's recent ascent to the position of prime minister for the second time has sent ripples across the nation.

As the global community watches with vested interest, the trajectory of Pakistan's governance under Shehbaz's leadership unfolds against a backdrop of formidable challenges, intricate alliances, and the enduring quest for stability and progress.

A tale of resilience

A tale of resilience and political acumen lies at the heart of Shehbaz Sharif's victory. In a momentous turn of events, his resounding mandate — secured with a decisive 201 votes in the National Assembly — marks a significant shift in Pakistan's political dynamics.

Backed by the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) President and a coalition of seven other parties, Shehbaz's triumph underscores his enduring appeal and influence within the political landscape.

His defeat of Omar Ayub Khan — supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and nominated by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) — solidifies his position as the 24th Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Though slightly delayed, the inaugural session of the National Assembly was marked by a charged atmosphere filled with anticipation.

Pakistan's newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, delivers speech after elected as Pakistan's prime minister for second term, in the National Assembly building in Islamabad, Pakistan March 3, 2024.

As lawmakers convened to witness the historic moment, the solemn recitation of religious texts and the national anthem set the stage for the inauguration.

Notable political figures, including Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto, added gravity to the occasion with their presence, highlighting the significance of Shehbaz's return to power.

However, the path ahead for Shehbaz Sharif is fraught with challenges. Economic instability, political polarisation, security threats, and diplomatic complexities loom large on the horizon, demanding immediate attention and decisive action.

As Shehbaz assumes office, the electorate — buoyed by hopes of change and progress — looks to him for leadership and solutions to the nation's pressing issues.

Revitalising the economy

At the forefront of Shehbaz Sharif's agenda is the task of revitalising Pakistan's economy. With rising inflation, dwindling foreign reserves, and a widening fiscal deficit, economic stability is paramount to the nation's well-being.

Shehbaz has pledged to implement a comprehensive economic reform agenda, focusing on stimulating growth, attracting foreign investment, and creating employment opportunities.

His previous tenure as prime minister saw significant infrastructure development and economic reforms, providing a blueprint for his current administration's economic policies.

In addition to economic challenges, Shehbaz Sharif must navigate the complex political landscape of Pakistan. With a diverse array of political parties and interest groups vying for power and influence, coalition-building and consensus-building will be essential for effective governance.

Shehbaz's experience in coalition politics, coupled with his diplomatic skills and political acumen, positions him favourably to navigate the intricacies of Pakistan's political arena.

At the forefront of Shehbaz Sharif's agenda is the task of revitalising Pakistan's economy. 

National security and foreign relations

Also figuring high on his agenda is security, which remains a pressing concern for Pakistan, with internal strife, terrorism, and regional tensions posing significant threats to stability and peace.

Shehbaz Sharif's government must prioritise national security, strengthen law enforcement agencies, and bolster counter-terrorism efforts to safeguard the nation and its citizens.

His track record in maintaining law and order during his previous tenure as Chief Minister of Punjab demonstrates his commitment to security and stability.

Shehbaz Sharif faces a complex array of diplomatic challenges on the international front. Pakistan's relations with neighbouring countries, particularly India and Afghanistan, remain strained, with longstanding disputes and territorial conflicts exacerbating tensions.

Shehbaz's pragmatic approach to foreign policy — centred on dialogue, cooperation, and conflict resolution — offers a potential pathway to peace and stability in the region. His extensive network of international contacts and diplomatic experience will be instrumental in navigating Pakistan's foreign relations.

Amidst Pakistan's myriad challenges, Shehbaz Sharif's government must prioritise national reconciliation and unity. Political polarization and ideological divisions have hampered progress and hindered efforts to address the nation's pressing issues.

Shehbaz's inclusive leadership style and commitment to consensus-building offer hope for bridging the political divide and fostering a spirit of cooperation among all stakeholders.

Supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) party celebrate Shehbaz Sharif's election as Pakistan's new prime minister outside the Parliament House in Islamabad on March 3, 2024.

By fostering a culture of dialogue and cooperation, Shehbaz's government can pave the way for meaningful progress and sustainable development in Pakistan

Allegations of election rigging and concerns about political accountability have also come to the forefront of Pakistan's political landscape. Addressing these concerns requires a concerted effort to strengthen democratic institutions and ensure the separation of powers.

The opposition parties' claims of manipulation by powerful institutions point to a broader problem that needs to be addressed to uphold the principles of democracy in Pakistan.

Substantial achievements

Reflecting on PML-N's previous tenure, it is important to note the substantial achievements under Nawaz Sharif's leadership.

When PML-N came to power in 2013, Pakistan faced significant challenges, including the aftermath of the war against terrorism and extensive load shedding of electricity.

Sharif's government tackled these challenges head-on, significantly reducing load shedding and addressing other pressing issues.

Despite these accomplishments, challenges remain, and the success of Shehbaz's leadership will be measured by his ability to navigate Pakistan through turbulent times.

Shehbaz's pragmatic approach to foreign policy, centred on dialogue and cooperation, offers a potential pathway to regional stability.

As the political landscape unfolds, Shehbaz Sharif is expected to continue the legacy of his brother Nawaz Sharif.

His pursuit of reimagining Pakistan as an economic powerhouse stands at a crucial juncture. As the nation faces challenges on multiple fronts, Shehbaz's leadership has the potential to shape the trajectory of Pakistan's future.

Whether he can secure the needed support, navigate internal party issues, and garner military backing remains to be seen, but his election as premier is a potential turning point in Pakistan's complex political landscape.

Shehbaz Sharif's return to power heralds a new chapter in Pakistan's political landscape, characterised by resilience, resolve, and renewal.

As he embarks on his second term as prime minister, the nation stands at a critical juncture, with formidable challenges and daunting obstacles ahead.

However, with determination, vision, and a steadfast commitment to the welfare of the people, Shehbaz Sharif has the potential to leave a lasting legacy of progress and prosperity in Pakistan, resonating not only within the country but also on the global stage.

He will work hard to steer Pakistan — a nuclear power with a 240 million Muslim majority population—  out of armed confrontation.

Supporters of a religious group demonstrate to condemn the Iranian strike in the Pakistani border area.

Pakistan's fragile economy faces mounting pressure with plummeting exports and a complete halt in foreign direct investment, a situation largely attributed to the country's turbulent political climate and deteriorating security situation.

The newly installed government desperately needs an emergency $bn bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stave off economic collapse.

The burning question is whether Shehbaz's coalition government has the capacity to negotiate vital IMF assistance and rise to the immense challenge of stabilising the nation's economy.

Financial experts underscore Pakistan's urgent need to restart stalled negotiations with the IMF. The country has significant financial commitments to the IMF that are rapidly coming due.

Failure to secure an agreement with the IMF could have disastrous consequences for the nation's economy.

Time is of the essence, and the Sharif-led government has to address this economic crisis immediately. The success of their efforts to pull Pakistan back from the brink remains uncertain.

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