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Maryam's journey into the spotlight

Updated July 06, 2018

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Excerpts from article published in Dawn, EOS, March 11th, 2018.

Maryam Nawaz was born on October 28, 1974 (according to her profile available on the internet) and is married to Captain Safdar Awan, who worked in Nawaz Sharif’s staff when Maryam was barely out of her teenage years.

Before this, the papers had already reported a case, which, essentially, aimed to highlight how the privileged in this country used their position for gains not due. It was her attempt to become a doctor which had brought her some bad publicity.

She — more her guardians — were accused of applying a clever scheme to get admission into the most prestigious and the most sought-after King Edward Medical College in Lahore. As per the formula often used, she first got enrolled into a medical college away from Lahore and later got a transfer to King Edward. It turned out the hassle was not worth it.

Her journey to be a doctor came to an end when she got married.

For the next few years, there are very few snippets from her personal life which have made it to the public domain. Her husband, in the meanwhile, appeared to get some importance in the party but he was never promoted as someone who could at some stage get an important office in the PML-N.

Political role

It was presumed that Maryam was content with her life behind the scenes — just like her siblings. She now says that she stood by her mother during Kulsoom Nawaz’s brave fight to secure the release of both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif and the family’s subsequent exile to Saudi Arabia.

But perhaps not too many can recall too great a role played by her in that episode, which played out when she was still in her tender 20s. Like her brothers and sister, she took the back seat, leaving Kulsoom to fight it out publicly on her own.

Years later, in 2017, Maryam recalled her mother’s struggle as she appealed for votes for Kulsoom in the NA-120 by-election.

“My mother struggled alone despite being a housewife,” she boomed. “She is not a candidate for your votes just because she happens to be the wife of Nawaz Sharif. [She is deserving of your votes since] she challenged a dictator at a time when everyone had gone into hiding.”

Maryam's cubs

By the time Maryam stood by her father at a series of jalsas [public gatherings] in the spring of 2018, she was already a name to reckon with, both within the PML-N and in national politics in general. She was considered a crowd-puller in her own right, and an organiser, delivering sharper responses to those she deemed her father’s opponents.

Of special significance in the story of Maryam’s rise is the ‘core group’ she is credited with creating.

This core group was responsible for verbally hitting back at all those who were out to use television channels to lambast the Nawaz Sharif government. The composition of the group led to intriguing questions being asked by Maryam’s detractors. Those drafted in obviously had fire in their bellies and a reason to be louder than other, more settled, members of the PML-N.

More importantly those men — Talal Chaudhry, for example — were new enough to not carry any labels that would put them in a certain category. They were fiery and fresh enough in the party to be tagged quickly as Maryam’s men. Not too long afterwards they were rewarded for their services with ministries at the federal level — which vindicated Maryam’s position of power in the party.

As the situation turned increasingly conducive to Maryam Nawaz’s chosen style of politicking, her influence also spread. It was clear that she was revelling in the conditions that, to an extent, her own brand of politics had created for her father. Having been pushed into a corner for yet another time in his career, the father appeared more and more inclined to employ the ever-willing daughter into manning the left plank in the party along with himself. She was the balancing act as Shahbaz Sharif went about exploring a compromise route that could land the party — even if short of a most prominent Sharif — back in power.

Read the full piece here.