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Nawaz Sharif (1949 – )

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was born on 25th December 1949 in Lahore. He is a politician and businessman. He was elected twice as Prime Minister of Pakistan and served two non-consecutive terms, the first from 1st November 1990 to 18th July 1993 and second from 17th February 1997 to 12th October 1999. He is now the leader of Pakistan Muslim League (N) party.


Muhammad Sharif, the father of Nawaz Sharif, migrated to Pakistan from Amritsar in 1947. After independence Muhammad Sharif established a small business which gradually turned into what was later known as Ittefaq Group. Nawaz was a cricketer during his early life, and played first class cricket in the 1973-74 season representing Pakistan Railways. During his premiership he used to play cricket only as a batsman. He married Kulsoom Nawaz, who is the grandniece of the famous Kashmiri wrestler – The Great Gama. Nawaz Sharif was educated at Saint Anthony’s High School and Government College (Lahore), and received a law degree from Punjab University. Following his education, he entered Punjab provincial politics, joining the Punjab advisory district council.


He initially joined politics in the late 1970s when he became a member of Asghar Khan’s Tehrik-e-Istiqlal. He was then chosen by Military leader Punjab Governor Jilani as Punjab finance Minister. He became finance minister of Punjab in 1981 and also served as minister of sports. He was credited with increasing funding for sports activities and rural projects. The Ittefaq Group saw its unprecedented upsurge during this period. He first became Prime Minister on 1st November 1990, running on a platform of conservative government and an end to corruption. His term was interrupted on 18th April 1993, when President Ghulam Ishaq Khan used the reserve powers vested in him by the Eighth Amendment to dissolve the National Assembly. Less than six weeks later, the Supreme Court overruled the President, reconstituting the National Assembly and returning Sharif to power on 26th May 1993. Sharif resigned from office along with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on 18th July 1993, after his feud with the president, who had accused him of corruption. Moin Qureshi became caretaker prime minister, and was succeeded shortly thereafter by Benazir Bhutto, who was elected to office on 19th October 1993.


Nawaz was returned to power in February 1997 with such a huge majority that the result was immediately questioned by Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party. One of the first things Sharif did at the start of his second term was to orchestrate the scrapping of Article 58-(2)(b) through another Amendment to the Constitution – an exercise in which Sharif’s party was joined by all the other political parties in the National Assembly and Senate. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan was passed so that the President could no longer dismiss the Prime Minister; and the Fourteenth Amendment imposed so-called party discipline on members of Parliament. Party leaders now had unlimited power to dismiss any of their legislators if they failed to vote as they were told. This made it impossible to dismiss a prime minister by a motion of no confidence. In effect, the two amendments removed nearly all checks on the Prime Minister’s power, since they removed all legal remedies to dismiss him. He opposed the independence of the judiciary, clashing with the Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah. The Supreme Court was stormed by Sharif’s party loyalists on 28th November 1997, and the Chief Justice was forced to resign.


On the development front, Nawaz Sharif completed the construction of South West Asia’s first motorway, the 367 km M2, linking Lahore and Islamabad. The motorway, which was initiated during Nawaz Sharif’s first term, was inaugurated in November 1997 and was constructed at a cost of Rs.35.5 billion. The peak of his popularity came when his government undertook nuclear tests on 28th May 1998 in response to India’s nuclear tests two weeks earlier. However, after these tests, matter started going downhill. He suspended many civil liberties, dismissed the Sindh provincial government and set up military courts when the stability of the government was threatened. He was accused of cronyism and being too supportive of Punjabi candidates for office, which marginalized his party in the south Punjab.


During his first term as prime minister, Sharif had fallen out with three successive army chiefs: with General Mirza Aslam Beg over the 1991 Gulf War issue; with General Asif Nawaz over the Sindh “Operation Clean-Up” issue; and with General Waheed Kakar over the Sharif-Ishaq imbroglio. At the end of General Waheed’s three-year term in January 1996, General Jehangir Karamat was appointed army chief. His term was due to end on January 9, 1999. In October 1998, however, true to form, Sharif fell out with General Karamat as well, over the latter’s advocacy of the need for the creation of a National Security Council.


In October 1998 General Karamat resigned and Sharif appointed General Pervez Musharraf as army chief. He would later regret appointing Pervez Musharraf to the Chief of Army position, as Musharraf would lead a coup to topple Sharif’s government. Jealous of Musharraf’s growing power within the military, Sharif fired him in October 1999, while Musharraf was on a commercial jet, flying to Karachi. Sharif initially ordered the jet diverted. Musharraf orchestrated a bloodless coup from the plane and later arrested Sharif, charging him with hijacking, conspiracy to murder and treason. The Supreme Court upheld the hijacking charge. Musharraf eventually pardoned Sharif but also booted him out of the country. Sharif took up exile in Saudi Arabia. Sharif flew back to Pakistan on 10th September 2007. Musharraf immediately ordered him out of the country again.


Sharif returned on 25th November 2007, this time for good, as Musharraf’s rule was slowly, irrevocably disintegrating in the face of popular outrage. For a time Sharif and Benazir Bhutto campaigned together until Bhutto’s assassination. After the 2008 parliamentary elections, Sharif’s PML and Bhutto’s PPP briefly ruled as a coalition. That arrangement collapsed in August 2008. In the 6th September 2008 parliamentary vote that was to decide Pakistan’s next president, Sharif nominated former chief justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui to face Asif Ali Zardari and a Pervez Musharraf loyalist, Mushahid Hussain. Now he is the leader of the main opposition party.

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