Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif takes on the helm of affairs at a time when Pakistan is suffering from numerous problems, ranging from a stagnant economy to growing militancy and a crippling power crisis.
Having served as prime minister twice before, Nawaz belongs to an influential industrialist family. He is a graduate of the Government College Lahore and has a law degree from Punjab University Law College.
Nawaz rose to prominence when he was inducted in the Punjab cabinet first as finance minister during General Ziaul Haq’s regime and later served as chief minister of Punjab in the 1980’s for two consecutive terms.
He was first elected as prime minister in November 1990 under the banner of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad – a conglomerate of different right and centre-right political parties – succeeding former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, whose government was sent packing in 1990 after less than two years in power.
Nawaz at the very outset espoused privatisation, reversing the policy of nationalisation pursued by the founding leader of PPP Zulifikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970’s.
He also initiated major road construction and other infrastructure projects, including South Asia’s first motorway. Other initiatives of his first government included introducing market reforms and pro-business regulations.
But with pressure from within the ruling coalition and PPP accusing IJI of coming to power with the support of the military establishment, differences between Nawaz Sharif and then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan started to emerge, leading to an unceremonious dismissal of his government in 1993.
Nawaz was elected prime minister for a second time in 1997 with a so-called “heavy mandate” following the dismissal of Benazir’s second government. With a two-thirds majority, Nawaz used this clout to push through several amendments in the Constitution, including taking away key powers from the Presidency.
His second term is best remembered for conducting Pakistan’s first nuclear test in 1998 in a tit-for-tat response to India tests a few months prior.
A peace initiative with India in the shape of the Lahore declaration with then Indian premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not last long, as a few months after signing the friendship pact the now nuclear-armed rivals were engaged in the Kargil war.
Then followed the military coup of 1999, when Nawaz’s government was toppled by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, whom he had appointed as the army chief.
After a brief incarceration, he went in exile to Saudi Arabia in 2000 after an alleged agreement under which he was barred from returning and engaging in politics for the next 10 years.
Amid the mayhem of the 2007 emergency imposed by Musharraf and the sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Nawaz got permission to return and his party was allowed to take part in the 2008 elections.
After securing second place in the polls behind PPP, the two parties initially formed a coalition government which barely lasted a few months.
The PML-N parted ways with the PPP-led coalition since the two could not see eye-to-eye on the issue of reinstating Chief Justice Chaudhry and other judges who were sacked by Musharraf.
In March 2009, Nawaz started a long march against the PPP government to press for the restoration of the sacked judges, which was successful as the judges were reinstated.
Nawaz remained a vocal critic of President Zardari and his party during its government, even though he was often accused by his political rival Imran Khan of being a ‘friendly’ opposition leader.
Nawaz rose to prominence when he was inducted in the Punjab cabinet first as finance minister during General Ziaul Haq’s military regime and later served as chief minister of Punjab in the 1980’s for two consecutive terms.
He was elected Prime Minister in November 1990 for the first time under the banner of Islami Jamhori Ittehad (IJI)-a conglomerate of different right and center-right political parties succeeding Benazir Bhutto’s government which was sent packing after less than two years in power in 1990.
Nawaz came to power again in 1997 following dismissal of Benazir Bhutto’s second government with so-called “heavy mandate” having a two-thirds majority in the parliament. Using the clout he brought several amendments in the constitution that made him a very powerful prime minister.
On October 12, 1999 Nawaz Sharif’s govt was toppled by General Pervez Musharraf. Nawaz was sent to Attock fort and was charged in a plane highjacking case. Benazir Bhutto was already in exile and the former foes became allies when Nawaz moved to London from Saudi Arabia after five years.
He went into exile to Saudi Arabia in 2000 after an alleged agreement under which he was barred from returning and had to keep away from politics for ten years.
In 2007 Nawaz got permission to return home and his party was allowed to take part in elections that were due in January 2008. These elections were delayed for a month due to assassination of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto in a bomb and gun attack during the election campaign.
February 2008 polls brought PPP into power with PML-N becoming second largest party. The two parties initially started a coalition government that hardly lasted a few months.
In March 2009, Nawaz started a long march against the PPP government to press for reinstatement of the sacked judges.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2013.