Lahore: Nawaz Sharif "smartly deprived" his younger brother Shehbaz an opportunity to become prime minister because of "family politics" despite nominating the Punjab chief minister as his eventual successor, according to some PML-N leaders.
After his disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case on July 28 Nawaz had announced that Shehbaz would be prime minister for remaining 10-month tenure of the party after interim arrangements of 45-day for which Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected premier.
In the background interviews, some PML-N leaders said they are of the view that Shehbaz is made to miss a "golden opportunity" to succeed his elder brother as there has been no guarantee that he will get the same chance in 2018 in case PML-N wins the election as more players from the elder Sharif family will be there in the race for the top slot.
Sharif's wife Kalsoom will be strong candidate for the PM slot in case PML-N wins 2018 general election if his daughter - Maryam - is not cleared in corruption cases she is facing in the accountability courts by then," a top PML-N leader said.
"Perhaps Shehbaz missed the golden chance of becoming premier, thanks to smart politics of his elder brother. Who knows about 2018 election's outcome and family politics then. Sharif actually told his brother that he couldn't take his chances on him (Shehbaz). Sharif fears Shehbaz will take control of the party once he becomes premier and will also hand over Punjab province to his son Hamza," he said.
Another leader said: "Sharif played excellent family politics. First he announced his brother his successor. Later he built a campaign within the PML-N through his close aides establishing a narrative that Shehbaz's quitting of Punjab would be disastrous for the party as it might be split and face difficulties in 2018 polls. Had not Nawaz and company known the importance of Punjab for PML-N earlier?"
On the other hand, Shehbaz tried his best to convince Sharif to take him to the Centre and leave Punjab to his son Hamza but to no avail.
Maryam, who is blamed for Dawn Leaks and 'ill-advice' to her father regarding handling the Panama Papers case legally and politically, is also not in favor of his uncle's elevation to the Centre.
"Maryam does not like to see the total control of Shehbaz and his family in the Centre, Punjab and the PML-N," another PML-N leader from Punjab said.
"Giving everything on the platter of Shehbaz was never in the scheme of things of the elder brother and Maryam. Blockade of Shehbaz to the Centre will help Nawaz a complete control over the party affairs and pave the way for future premier from his family," he said, adding that the current arrangement suited the leadership as Sharif would see matters in the Centre and run the government through "puppet PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi" and Shehbaz reduced to Punjab.
Foreign minister Khawaja Asif said the decision to 'retain' Shehbaz had almost been finalized.
Asif says the party wants Shehbaz in Punjab as he has good equation with all MPAs in Punjab and all ongoing development projects are on his finger tips.
"A large section of the party is of the view that Shehbaz should continue delivering in Punjab."