Born in Lahore in 1950, Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif is the younger brother of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif. He recently served as Punjab’s chief minister and also held the post from 1997-1999, before former military ruler Pervez Musharraf exiled the Sharif brothers to Saudi Arabia.
Considered a workaholic, Shahbaz likes to term himself Khadim-i-Aala (chief servant) rather than chief minister. He was also elected president of PML-N twice — in 2002 and 2006. In March 2012, Shahbaz was elected president of the PML-N’s Punjab chapter.
Shahbaz often uses revolutionary poetry in speeches and during public meetings. He has also been mocked by television anchors for attempting to imitate Pakistan Peoples Party’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by toppling microphones at emotional junctures during public addresses.
Shahbaz is the second son of Mian Mohammad Sharif. He is an influential businessman and jointly owns Ittefaq Group of Companies. He was also elected president of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industries in 1985.
Shahbaz was first elected MPA to the Punjab Assembly in 1988. His term lasted until the assemblies and in 1990 he chose to run for a National Assembly seat, returning as an MNA. However, in 1993 he again stood for a provincial assembly seat and became leader of the opposition in Punjab Assembly. His term ended in 1996 when the assemblies were dissolved.
After his win in the 1997 election, Shahbaz earned the opportunity to serve the largest province of the country for the first time and remained its chief minister until Musharraf’s military coup of 1999.
Following his return from nearly a decade-long exile, Shahbaz became chief minister of Punjab for the second time after PML-N won the majority number of seats in the province in the 2008 election.
Shahbaz is considered a strong and determined character among Pakistani politicians as well as a competent administrator. However, projects initiated by him such as ‘sasti roti’ and the laptop scheme have been sharply criticised. Meanwhile, projects like Ashyiana housing scheme and Daanish schools were appreciated to some extent.
Shahbaz was also criticised for the recently launched Metro Bus service in Lahore as an act of favouritism at the cost of other parts of Punjab. Nevertheless, under Shahbaz’s recent administration, overall law and order situation in Punjab remained relatively better than in the remaining three provinces of the country.
He, along with Nawaz, have started campaigning in the run up to the 2013 election and are visiting all corners of the country in a bid to woo voters away from rivals PPP and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf.
— Research and text by Imran Kazmi