A former two-time premier and chief minister of Punjab, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is much known for carrying out nuclear tests in 1998. He currently heads Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan’s largest political party.
Nawaz Sharif is a Pakistani politician and businessman and has served as elected prime minister twice. His first term as premier was from November 1, 1990 to July 18, 1993 and his second began on February 17, 1997, ending on October 12, 1999.
His party, Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), continues to be one of the most distinguished parties in Pakistan with a vast following in Punjab.
Sharif was born on December 25, 1949 in Lahore. His father, Mian Muhammad Sharif was an industrialist and had migrated from Amritsar to Pakistan in 1947. Sharif studied at Saint Anthony High School and Government College Lahore, before enrolling at the University of Punjab to study law. After completing his education, he joined his family’s business – House of Ittefaq.
He is married to Kulsoom Nawaz and has three children — Maryam, Hassan and Hussain. His brother, Shahbaz, is also a politician and has twice been Punjab’s chief minister.
Sharif’s political career took off in the 1980s when he served as Punjab’s finance minister and later as the province’s chief minister.
During his term as provincial finance minister, he came to be known for advocating policies that allowed greater capital to flow into the province, thereby helping to make Punjab the richest unit in the federation. His financial policies also received support from General Ziaul Haq.
Sharif was later nominated as Punjab’s chief minister and was elected to the post with a massive win in the subsequent election. He continued as chief minister for two consecutive terms.
In November 1990, Sharif was elected prime minister, succeeding Pakistan Peoples Party’s Benazir Bhutto. In his first tenure as premier, he initiated many developmental projects in the country.
His premiership also saw the passing of the Shariat Bill, making Quran and sunnah the law in Pakistan. Sharif’s government went on to consolidate the process further, forming a working group to monitor and make recommendations for enforcing Islamic laws in the country. The bill also reflected that Sharif was not interested in repealing discriminatory laws (like the Hudood Ordinance) against women. The working group recommended the setting up of Sharia courts, changes in the curriculum in order to incorporate Islamic teachings, as well as strict censorship policies for the media.
Sharif also opened a number of state-owned institutions for privatisation and legalised foreign exchange transactions through private money changers. He was vehemently criticised by PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) for neglecting Sindh and Balochistan with respect to projects involving development and industrialisation.
He was first ousted from power in 1993 following a widening rift between himself and Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the president at the time. His dismissal cleared the path for Benazir Bhutto to form a new government.
Sharif again became prime minister in 1997 and spearheaded a series of constitutional amendments. Several of these were viewed as attempts to counter “institutional opposition” to his rule. Sharif also entered into a conflict with the then chief justice of the country and faced contempt of court charges. These were eventually dismissed.
His second term also saw Pakistan conducting nuclear tests, days after India carried out its own. And although, Sharif secured considerable popularity as a result, he found himself in conflict with his newly-appointed army chief, Pervez Musharraf, on Kargil. The conflict between the two escalated and Sharif’s second government was ousted in a military coup on October 12, 1999. He was subsequently arrested and was sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorist court in April 2000 on two counts of hijacking and terrorism over the diversion of Musharraf's plane when it was low on fuel. A deal was later negotiated by the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Sharif’s sentence was commuted to exile in Saudi Arabia.
Return to Pakistan and subsequent developments
Sharif returned to Pakistan on November, 2007, a month after Benazir’s homecoming, and resumed political activities.
In the 2008 general election, his party won a quarter of the National Assembly seats and went on to form a coalition government with PPP, both at the centre and in Punjab.
However, due to disagreements over reinstatement of judges deposed by Musharraf and unilateral nomination of Zardari as a presidential candidate, Sharif’s party withdrew from the PPP-led coalition and joined the opposition.
In the run-up to the 2013 general election, Sharif formed electoral alliances with Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PML-F) and National People’s Party (NPP). He has vowed that his party would turn Pakistan into a new, modern and developed country if the people voted it to power in the coming general election.
He has been vocal on the issue of Balochistan and ‘missing’ persons, saying he and his party would not back down until the victims of enforced disappearances are recovered.
Calling terrorism the country’s biggest problem, Sharif has advocated talks with the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He previously backed the military operations in Swat and South Waziristan has also called for cessation of US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
In what can be viewed as a major feature in Sharif’s development as a politician and a statesman, his approach towards the army appears to have changed considerably. In the wake of the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, Sharif vowed never to allow any institution to become a sacred cow and be above the law. Although he did not name the army, Sharif left no doubt which institution he was referring to, saying “(they) would have to change their mindset”.
Leading in the 2013 polls
Sharif's party is leading in the polls in the May 11 general elections. In the 2013 polls, he emerged victorious from Lahore's NA-120 and Sargodha's NA-68 and is likely to form a government at the centre.
— Research and text by Soonha Abro