Like many others, I also thought Shahbaz Sharif was a better politician, and perhaps a better leader than Nawaz Sharif. But weren’t we all wrong about the “man of the hour? After the July 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court (SC), that disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding any public office, the ex-PM managed to create a message demanding the sanctity of the vote, and was somewhat successful in bringing forth civil-military tensions as an electoral issue in Pakistan. Throughout this phase, Shahbaz Sharif was seen trying to disassociate himself from this narrative, and was found highlighting the party’s performance, particularly in Punjab. Instead of “vote ko izzat do” he came up with a rather dull “khidmat ko vote do” narrative, which obviously was bound to fall flat on its face.If this wasn’t enough, then came the famous press conference the day the Avenfield verdict was announced. Those who saw his press conference were surprised and somewhat shocked, as he sounded very indifferent and mild. It came across as one of the routine press talks, as opposed to one being done in extraordinary circumstances, where the party’s leadership was being put behind bars. He disappointed yet again when he spent the entire day roaming around the streets of Lahore, but couldn’t find his way to the airport to show solidarity with his brother and niece who had returned to surrender before the law. If only he knew how to use Google maps! Nawaz Sharif had taken a rather hard stance during the election campaign, but once Nawaz Sharif was in jail, Shahbaz Sharif not only toned down his political narrative, but also asked those close to Mariam to take a more reconciliatory approach. If there were any doubts left regarding his political farsightedness, those were laid to rest quickly once the joint opposition alliance was formed. The first call to action by the alliance was a planned protest in front of the Election Commission. He decided to skip the protest on the pretext of bad weather. Last time I checked, it only takes four hours to reach Islamabad from Lahore! It is due to his soft and casual attitude, that despite being the largest opposition party in Pakistan, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has been reduced to a party whose decisions are managed by Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and company.The choices available to the PML-N are clear; act now or be prepared to turn into a regional party, whose political support base starts from the outskirts of Gujranwala and ends in Chuniya. The clock is tickingHe even failed to see that politically, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was in a much better position as opposed to the last general elections, and would not wholeheartedly be part of any serious alliance to challenge the government making efforts of PTI. The PPP managed to extract votes for its candidate for the Speaker and at the last minute, refused to support him as the candidate for PM. Similarly, in the presidential elections, Shahbaz Sharif got played by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, who was given the task of bringing the opposition together, but somehow managed to get himself nominated as presidential candidate(classic Maulana move) for PML-N and other opposition parties. In politics, when you get taken for a ride by your very own Maulana sahib, it means you have hit rock bottom. The problem with Shahbaz Sharif is that he is so used to being in power that he doesn’t understand how to act in opposition, and seems completely out of his depth. So where does PML-N go from here? Whether you agree with her politics or not, Mariam has established herself as the leader of the party in the last year, and perhaps is the party’s only hope. If Shahbaz Sharif runs the party for another two years, I am afraid there won’t be much of a party left for Mariam to lead. If nothing else, Khawaja Asif should be made the opposition leader in the National Assembly — he not only understands politics, but also enjoys good relations with other parties. An added advantage is that he would be somewhat of an eyesore to Imran Khan. Just imagine Khawaja having a go at the PM during the PMQ session.Despite all of his failings, Shahbaz Sharif is a senior member and can’t be sidelined from the party, and one can’t even imagine it being run without his infinite political wisdom. I suggest he be made the Honorary Mayor of Raiwind estate, where he can wake up early in the morning, break a few microphones for breakfast, wear his big rubber boots and walk around the estate fighting with peacocks. And if he really insists, he should be allowed to make a few bridges and underpasses with Legos. After all, one should have a hobby. The choices available to the PML-N are clear; act now or be prepared to turn into a regional party, whose political support base starts from the outskirts of Gujranwala and ends in Chuniya. The clock is ticking. The writer is a Pakistan based journalists and anchor-personPublished in Daily Times, September 11th 2018.