Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (Urdu/Punjabi: میاں محمد نواز شریف, born 25 December 1949) is a Pakistani businessman and politician who served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan from 2013 until he was disqualified for life from office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2017. He had previously served as the Prime Minister twice in the 90s (1990–93 and 1997–99) and the Chief Minister of Punjab from 1985 to 1990. He is Pakistan’s longest-serving prime minister.
Born into the upper-middle class Sharif family in Lahore, he is the son of Ittefaqand Sharif Group founder, Muhammad Sharif, and the elder-brother of three-time elected Punjab Chief Minister, Shehbaz. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan He has a net worth of PKR 1.6 billion. Sharif studied business at Government College and later law at the University of Punjabbefore entering politics in the later 1970s. In 1981, Sharif was appointed by Zia-ul-Haq’s regime as the Minister of Finance for the province of Punjab. Backed by a loose coalition of conservatives, he was elected as the Chief Minister of Punjab in 1985 and re-elected after the end of martial law in 1988. In 1990, Sharif led a conservative alliance to victory and became Prime Minister. Later it was alleged that the election was rigged in favour of Sharif by the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, channeling millions of rupees into his election campaign.
Sharif’s first administration came to an end when then President Ghulamdismissed Sharif on corruption charges. Sharif successfully challenged the dismissal in the Supreme Court, but both men were ultimately persuaded to step down in 1993 by army chief Waheed. Sharif’s second term also saw tussles with the judiciary and the military. Sharif also forcibly relieved General Karamat from command and replaced him with Musharraf in 1998. However, the Kargil War led to a deterioration of his relations with Musharraf. When he attempted to relieve Musharraf from his command on 12 October 1999, the military instead ousted Sharif’s government and exiled him to Saudi Arabia.
In the 2013 elections, Sharif’s Muslim League formed a coalition governmentwith Sharif Prime Minister in Parliament.
On the security front, in 2015 the military launched an offensive to remove extremist groups in northwestern Pakistan and another paramilitary offensive in 2017. Sharif’s third term is also underpinned by social centrism rather than the social conservatism which guided his prior two terms. Sharif’s third term has brought macroeconomic stability with the help of substantial loans from the IMF, and multibillion-dollar investment deals with China. However, he has faced criticism over rising sovereign debt, which has risen by 35%. Sharif’s family has come under judicial scrutiny over the Panama Papers. On 13 April 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan banned Sharif for life from holding any political office.
Personal life and education
See also: Sharif family
Government College University, where Sharif studied business.
Sharif was born in Lahore, Punjab on 25 December 1949. The Sharif family are Punjabis of Kashmiri origin. His father, Muhammad Sharif, was an upper-middle-class businessman and industrialist whose family had emigrated from Anantnag in Kashmir for business, and eventually settled in the village of Jati Umra in Amritsar district, Punjab, at the beginning of the twentieth century. His mother’s family came from Pulwama. After the movement led by Jinnah and his struggle to create Pakistan in 1947, his parents migrated from Amritsar to Lahore. His father followed the teachings of the Ahl-i Hadith. His family owns Ittefaq Group, a multimillion-dollar steel conglomerate and Sharif Group, a conglomerate company with holdings in agriculture, transport and sugar mills.
He is married to Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif, who is also descended from a Kashmiri family. His brother Shehbaz Sharif is the incumbent Chief Minister of Punjab province, while his nephew Hamza Shahbaz Sharif is a member of the National Assembly. His daughter Maryam Nawaz is currently the chairperson for the prime minister’s youth initiative. Maryam is married to politician Muhammad Safdar Awan. His other daughter, Asma Nawaz, is married to Ali Dar, son of Ishaq Dar, the current finance minister of Pakistan. The personal residence of the Sharif family, Raiwind Palace, is located in Jati Umra, Raiwind, on the outskirts of Lahore. He also has a residence in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, known as the Sharif Villa, where he lived during his years in exile. His elder son, Hussain Nawaz, is a businessman based in Saudi Arabia and currently resides in the Jeddah house. His younger son, Hassan Nawaz, is also a businessman and lives in London.
He went to Saint Anthony High School. He graduated from the Government College University (GCU) with an art and business degree and then received a law degree from the Law College of Punjab University in Lahore.
Sharif underwent heart surgery in May 2016 in London. It was his second open-heart operation. His deteriorating health forced him to undergo an open heart surgery only three days before the presentation of the country’s annual budget. Many opposition leaders and the legal fraternity, including former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, raised questions about a possible constitutional crisis in Pakistan. Chaudhry called for electing a new interim Prime Minister to avoid the crisis.
Early political career
Sharif started his political career during the period of nationalization policies introduced by former Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The Sharif family were financially devastated after the family steel business was nationalised, and Sharif jumped into national politics soon afterwards. In 1976 Sharif joined the Pakistan Muslim League, a conservative front rooted in the Punjab province. He initially focused on regaining control of his steel plants from the government. In May 1980 Ghulam Jilani Khan, the recently appointed Governor of the Punjab Province and a former Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), initiated a search for new urban leaders; Sharif was one of the men he found and promoted, quickly making him Finance Minister of the Punjab. In 1981, Sharif joined the Punjab Advisory Board under General Zia-ul-Haq and principally rose to public and political prominence as a staunch proponent of the military government of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq during the 1980s.
He maintained close relations with Zia-ul-Haq, who soon agreed to return the steel mill which had been lost to nationalisation by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Sharif maintained an alliance with General Rahimuddin Khan, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. During his political career, Sharif also had close ties with the Director-General of ISI, Lieutenant-General (retired) Hamid Gul, who played a substantial role in the formation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) – a conservative political alliance that supported Sharif.
Sharif invested in Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Arab countries in the Middle East to rebuild his steel empire. According to personal accounts and his time spent with Sharif, American historian Stephen Philips Cohen states in his book Idea of Pakistan: “Nawaz Sharif never forgave Bhutto after his steel empire was lost into the hands of Bhutto; and even after [Bhutto’s] terrible end, Sharif publicly refused to forgive the soul of Bhutto or the Pakistan Peoples Party.” After coming to national power in 1990, Sharif attempted to reverse Bhutto’s nationalisation policies, introducing an economy based on privatisation and economic liberalisation.
Punjab Advisory Council
In 1981, he initially joined as a member of the Punjab Advisory Council under General Ghulam Jilani Khan, the Governor of the Province. Since his early career, Sharif has been a strong vocal of capitalism and strongly opposed its inverse, the nationalisation. In the 1980s, Sharif gained influence on General Zia-ul-Haq who had previously agreed to return his steel industry to him, convincing the General to denationalise and deregulate the industries to improve the economy. Under the Military government of Lieutenant-General Ghulam Jilani Khan, Sharif was appointed as the provisional finance minister and successfully attempted to denationalise all of the government-owned industries to private sector. As provincial finance minister, he presented development-oriented budgets to the military government. As Finance minister, Sharif gained prominence and fame in Punjab Province which also extended the rule of General Ghulam Jillani, as he improved the law and order situation in Punjab Province. Financial policies drafted and approved by Sharif, who was backed by General Zia, Punjab Province benefited with the better financial capital and purchasing power of Punjab Province’s locals were greatly and exponentially improved. Punjab Province having Sharif as Finance minister, received many funds by the federal government than any other provinces of Pakistan, which also contributed in economical inequality between Punjab Province and other provinces. Due to its huge financial capital in the 1980s, Punjab Province was Pakistan’s richest province and had a better standard of living compared to other provinces’ standard.
Chief Minister of Punjab
In 1985 General Ghulam Jilani Khan nominated Sharif as Chief Minister of the Punjab, against the wishes of the new prime minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo, who wanted a rural candidate, Malik Allahyar. Sharif secured a landslide victory during the non-political parties 1985 elections and became Chief Minister of Punjab with the support of the army. He served for two consecutive terms as Chief Minister of Punjab Province, the most populous province of Pakistan. Because of his vast popularity, he received the nickname “Lion of the Punjab”. As chief minister, he stressed welfare and development activities and the maintenance of law and order.
The provincial martial law Administrator of Punjab Province, Lieutenant-General Ghulam Jilani Khan sponsored the government of Sharif, and Sharif built his ties with the senior army generals who would remain supportive and sponsored Sharif’s ministership. General Jilani Khan made much headway in beautifying Lahore, extending military infrastructure, and muting political opposition, while Sharif maintained the law and order in the province, expanded the economical infrastructure that not only benefited the army and himself but also the people of Punjab province. In 1988, General Zia dismissed the government of hand-picked Prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, and called for new elections. However, with all the provisional and the national assemblies were dissolved, General Zia-ul-Haq retained Sharif as the Chief Minister of Punjab Province, and continued Sharif’s support until his death and the elections were held in 1988.
Main article: Pakistani general election, 1988
After General Zia’s death in August 1988, Zia’s political party–Pakistan Muslim League (Pagara Group)–split into two factions. Sharif led the Zia loyalist Fida Group against the Junejo Group, led by prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo. The Fida Group later took on the mantle of the PML while the Junejo Group became known as the JIP. The two parties along with seven other right-wing conservatives and religious parties united with encouragement and funding from the ISI to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). The alliance was co-led by Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and Sharif to oppose Benazir Bhutto’s PPP in the elections. The IJI gained substantial majorities in the Punjab and Sharif was re-elected Chief Minister of Punjab.
In December 1989, Sharif decided to remain in the provincial Punjab Assembly rather than hold a seat in the National Assembly. In early 1989, the PPP government failed to unseat Sharif through a no-confidence motion in the Punjab Assembly. Sharif retained control by a vote of 152 to 106.
First term as prime minister (1990–93)
The conservatives for the first time in the country’s history, came into the power under a democratic system, under the leadership of Sharif. Nawaz Sharif became the 12th Prime Minister of Pakistan on 1 November 1990 as well as head of IJI and succeeded Benazir Bhutto as Prime minister. IJI had been created and funded by the Zia loyalists in the ISI; it received Rs 15 million from the ISI. He campaigned on a conservative platform and vowed to reduce government corruption. He focused on improving the nation’s infrastructure and spurred the growth of digital telecommunication. He privatised government banks and opened the door for further industrial privatisation, and disbanded Zulfikar Bhutto’s policies. He legalised foreign money exchange to be transacted through private money exchangers. His privatisation policies were continued by both Benazir Bhutto in the mid-1990s and Shaukat Aziz as well in the 2000s.
Sharif meeting with conservative intellectuals of Pakistan in Sindh Province, c. 1990s.
Sharif took steps to initiate Islamization and conservatism at once. The continuation of conservative change in Pakistan society was encouraged, a policy started by Zia ul Haq. Reforms were made to introduce fiscal conservatism, supply-side economics, bioconservatism and religious conservatism in Pakistan.
He raised the issue of Kashmir in international forums and worked toward a peaceful transfer power in Afghanistan so as to help end the rampant trading of illicit drugs and weapons across the border. Sharif intensified General Zia-ul-Haq’s controversial Islamization policies, and introduced Islamic Laws such as the Shariat Ordinance and Bait-ul-Maal (to help poor orphans widows, etc.); Moreover, he gave tasks to the Ministry of Religion to prepare reports and recommendations for steps taken toward Islamization. He ensured the establishment of three committees.