Born in 1962 to famous politician Khawaja Rafique, Khawaja Saad Rafique attended Lahore’s Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College in the 1980s and did his M.A. in political science from Punjab University in 1986. He became a member of the Punjab Assembly after winning the provincial election of 1997 on a Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) ticket.
In the 2002 election, Saad won from NA-119 (Lahore-II) and joined the opposition against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf who was president at the time. During the years after the 2002 election, he also served as his party’s Punjab president. After his 2008 win from NA-125 (Lahore-VIII), Saad briefly assumed the office of federal minister for culture, with an additional portfolio of youth affairs, in the cabinet of Pakistan Peoples Party’s Yousuf Raza Gilani. However, he resigned from the post as PML-N pulled out of the PPP-led coalition government on the issues of reinstatement of deposed judges and unilateral nomination of Asif Ali Zardari as a presidential candidate.
Among PML-N’s central leaders, Saad is one of the few Nawaz-loyalists who kept the party alive during the Musharraf regime. He, along with party colleagues and lawyers, took to the streets calling for the resignation of the military ruler and the reinstatement of judges deposed by him. He was also put behind bars for partaking in violent protests for the said purpose.
In May 2009, Saad criticised the PPP-led coalition government over its strategy on Swat, blaming the country’s military and political leadership for the “mess” that had been created in the region. In his condemnation of the government over the matter, he also termed the National Assembly a “debating club” where people only came to polish their public speaking skills and that decisions were being made elsewhere.
Despite claiming in various television talk shows that he would not seek representation of members of his family in the 2013 polls, electoral tickets were awarded to his wife Ghazala Saad and brother Salman Rafique. Saad also said that his family was being over-represented, mainly to counter the perception that only a few families were running PML-N.
Reports of a quarrel between him and party fellow Nabila Tariq also surfaced regarding nomination of candidates on reserved seats for women in the run up to the 2013 election. Nabila blamed Saad for quashing her name from the list of potential candidates, an accusation the latter denied.
— Research and text by Imran Kazmi