LAHORE – PML-Nawaz central leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif said that weak economy, mainly due to corruption of the rulers, is hitting at the sovereignty of the country at the moment, besides bringing it a bad name in the world.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation on Friday, Maryam, daughter of former two-time premier Nawaz Sharif, said, “The country needs a visionary leader who had the will to steer it out of the problems galore; otherwise the situation will aggravate.”

Young, energetic and one of the leading members of the party, Maryam expressed a political insight that promises her bright future in this area.

Following is the detailed interview:

TN (The Nation): What motivated you to take part in politics?

Maryam: I idealise my father, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, in politics, who evolved himself in politics experiencing many phases, including Musharraf-led coup on his government in 1999, his internment, exile, and later his struggle for democracy, rule of law, the judiciary and his strong feelings for the people and the country. So, his personality became a prime motivation for me. I learned from my father that politics stands for selfless service to the people and adherence to decency and principles, instead of mudslinging and slandering that unfortunately finds favour with some politicians these days. My father has always struggled to strengthen the pillars of the state and has been swayed by a spirit to do something for the country that instilled interest for politics into me, besides providing me an opportunity to personally analyse and study what that meant. After Musharraf’s coup on the PML-N government in 1999, the way my mother stood against the dictator, at a time when many had gone to hibernation, was another inspiration to make me join politics and serve my people. My father has an unmatched political acumen. Whether it is economic agenda, policy of zero conflict or better Pakistan-India ties, he (Nawaz Sharif) is the ‘pioneer’ of what today is being termed vital for the country.

TN: Your entry in politics is about a year old: why this belated entry?

Maryam: Although Allah Almighty has destined the time of everything to take place, yet besides that, I took my time to raise the kids and learn about politics, which by all means is a very serious business and calls for justice from a politician. Politics is a full-time job and a politician is required to fully attend to the people who had posed trust and faith in him/her. And, after completing all the homework, I decided to take active part in politics, so that I could fully concentrate and give it my maximum time.

TN: There is an impression that you have been put in the political field to fill the void which other of the young Sharifs failed to do. Is this true?

Maryam: I totally dispel this impression that I am to compete with any of my family members. Every member of the Sharif family within his/her domain is successful and is doing well. My family bonds are stronger than politics, so there is no question that I am here to throw out anyone or take lead over others.

TN: Do you intend to take part in the next elections? If so, which constituency would you like to contest from and why that constituency?

Maryam: Any decision to this effect will be taken by the party leadership. And I would respect it, keeping the party disciple in either case. And if I am given a chance to contest, my preference will be a constituency, where I am easily accessible to the people to listen to them and address their problems as my basic responsibility. Election of a candidate is trust in him by the people that must not be betrayed.

TN: You say your ideal in politics is your father, but you also admire Benazir Bhutto. What similarities do you find in these two leaders that you like them?

Maryam: Although all that what I have learned in politics is from my father who has unmatched qualities, yet Benazir Bhutto moved me for her humility and good conduct which I found in her during the only (three-hour-long) meeting we had in Jeddah, when the Charter of Democracy was to be framed. Although, I do not subscribe to the politics and political ideology of Benazir, yet I have great respect for her till date. May Allah rest her soul in peace (Amen).

TN: In which of the three kids of Benazir Bhutto do you see qualities of their mother?

Maryam: Frankly speaking, I cannot make any judgement on it, without knowing them (in the political arena).

TN: In party meetings you overshadow everyone, including the women parliamentarians, and command the central position despite the fact you are not member of Parliament. Why?

Maryam: I am a PML-N worker and do not preside over meetings of the party instead the head of the committee. I always observe seniority and do not attempt to take place of senior members. However, in party meetings, we all perform like a family and accept input from everyone: senior or junior. We work with a sense of political belongingness, wherein I want to serve the party with more spirit and enthusiasm. Respecting the order of seniors, I even do not sit with the party head during meetings but on last benches.

TN: What do you think about the dynastic politics? Whether in meets the spirit of democracy and means a family doing dynastic politics, denies right to rule of other classes lower in social rank?

Maryam: In this context, I must say that relationship with a political icon must not curtail constitutional and democratic rights of a person to take part in politics. First of all it is in itself a negation of democracy that sets out equal opportunities for everyone. And if the people accept a person relating to a political bigwig, then his/her democratic right cannot be denied. And in dynastic politics one’s experience stems from the surroundings developed after years and limiting one’s scope to enter politics, when one has groomed for it, is just unacceptable in democracy. In my opinion politics is not a ‘bed of roses’ but a ruthless rough road and if a person affiliated with a political family or with a person enjoying a position of privilege, wants to enter this field his way should not be checked. However, that person must not abuse his position.

TN: What do you intend to do for women?

Maryam: I want every girl get education and contribute to national development. I believe that unless women are equipped with higher and quality education the wheel of national progress cannot run on requisite speed. So, they should be treated equally for giving opportunities without discriminating them on the basis of gender or regarding them merely a segment of society. Whether entrepreneur or skilled they need to be encouraged. Besides, I also want financial empowerment of women, for which I have also framed a roadmap. Our women have lot of talent and potential. The only thing we need is to tap that by providing them chance to grow in their field of interest. They can do even better than others. Strong women mean strong Pakistan.

TN: What is the main problem of Pakistan right now?

Maryam: Our weak economy. It is mother of all problems in the country, including terrorism that grows when joblessness is on the rise, and it is difficult to meet both ends meet. It the economic crunch costing us sovereignty through the drone attacks and has made Pakistan a beggar country in the world. We get money from others and they dictate us advancing their interests. Look at the drone attacks and killings. It is mainly because our dwindling economic position has lost our say and led us to compromise on sovereignty. Situation will aggravate if the country’s economy is not improved. Second problem is bad governance, financial mismanagement and lack of will and interest to put things right. The net result is: corruption is the order of the day and problems are constantly piling up. Such scandals of corruption are cropping up from the federal rulers that the head of the nation is down with shame. And the pressing need is of a visionary leader who with statesmanship could bring the country out of these problems.

TN: Can the PML-N deliver given this situation?

Maryam: Of course, it can. The last two tenures of our party gave a track record of the vision to progress and development which the party implemented braving many challenges. Making Pakistan a nuclear state, motorway, Gwadar Port are few of long row of achievement at the time when Pakistan’s GDP was also recorded the highest in the region. Today, Punjab Government of Shahbaz Sharif is giving the best results of progress, and development than all other provinces, despite a number of odds and difficulties put in its way by the federal government. The provincial government has the will and is proving it despite loadshedding and lesser resources from the Centre. The PML-N also has a team of experts and the party is once again poised to put the country on right track and serve after winning the next elections which Insha Allah, this party will.