Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif  MNA نواز شریف


Nawaz Sharif 

Born into a wealthy Sharif family in Lahore, he is the son of Ittefaq Group founder Muhammad Sharif, and the brother of  Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif.

Early life

Nawaz 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 Ahle-Hadith.

His family owns:

Ittefaq Group multimillion-dollar steel conglomerate
Sharif Group conglomerate company with holdings in agriculture,

transport and sugar mills

He is married to Kulsoom Butt. The personal residence of the Sharif family, Raiwind Palace, is located in Jati Umra, Raiwind, on the outskirts of Lahore. He went to St. Anthony’s High School.

  • He graduated from the Government College University (GCU) with a degree in art and business.
  • He received a law degree from the Law College of the Punjab University in Lahore.


Government College University, where Sharif studied business.

Sharif studied business at Government College Lahore and later law, at the University of Punjab before entering politics in the late 1970s. In 1981, Sharif was appointed by the military government as the minister of finance for 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,

Political career

Nawaz Sharif started his political career during the period of nationalization policies introduced by former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The Sharif family was financially hit after the family owned steel business was nationalized, but soon Sharif was into national politics. In 1976 he 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 Punjab and  former Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), initiated a search for new urban leaders; Sharif was one of the men picked and promoted quickly to  finance minister of Punjab. In 1981, Sharif joined the Punjab Advisory Board under General Zia-ul-Haq and rose to public and political prominence as a staunch supporter 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 mills. During his political career, Sharif maintained an alliance with General Rahimuddin Khan, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and 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 American historian Stephen Cohen in his book,  Idea of Pakistan: “Nawaz Sharif never forgave Bhutto after his steel empire was lost at 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 nationalization policies, introducing an economy based on privatisation and economic liberalization.

Punjab Advisory Council

In 1981, he became a member of the Punjab Advisory Council under General Ghulam Jilani Khan, the Governor of Punjab. Since the start of his early career, Sharif had been strongly vocal of capitalism and opposed the nationalization. In the 1980s, Sharif gained influence with General Zia-ul-Haq. He convinced the General to denationalize and deregulate the industries to improve the economy.

In the military government of Lt.-General Ghulam Jilani Khan, Sharif was appointed the provisional finance minister and successfully denationalized all of the government-owned industries to private sector. As provincial finance minister, he presented development-oriented budgets to the military government; he gained prominence in Punjab which also supported and extended the rule of Lt. General Ghulam Jillani Khan, as he improved the law and order situation in Punjab. Financial policies drafted and approved by Sharif were backed by General Zia. Punjab Province benefited with improved financial capital, and purchasing power of locals was greatly and exponentially improved. Punjab with Sharif as Finance minister, received many funds from the federal government, more than any other province of Pakistan. This also contributed to the economical inequality between Punjab and other provinces. Due to its huge financial capital in the 1980s, Punjab was Pakistan’s richest province and had a better standard of living compared to other provinces.

Chief Minister of Punjab

In 1985 General Ghulam Jilani Khan nominated Sharif as Chief Minister of the Punjab, against the wishes of Prime Minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo, who wanted the 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, the most populous province. Because of his popularity, he received the nickname of “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, Lt. General Ghulam Jilani Khan sponsored the government of Nawaz Sharif, and Sharif built close ties with senior army generals who would remain supportive and sponsor his ministership. Lt. General Jilani Khan made 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 benefited the people of Punjab. In 1988, General Zia dismissed the government of Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, and called for new elections. All the provisional and the national assemblies were dissolved, but General Zia-ul-Haq retained Sharif as the Chief Minister of Punjab. He continued with Sharif’s support until his death (Gen. Zia) and the elections in 1988.

1988 General Elections

After General Zia’s death in August 1988, Zia’s political party, Pakistan Muslim League (Pagara Group)–split into two factions. Fida Group led by Sharif and Zia loyalists and Junejo Group led by Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo.The Fida Group later became the PML while the Junejo Group was known as the JIP. The two parties plus seven other right-wing conservatives and religious parties united with the encouragement and funding by the ISI to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). The alliance was co-led by Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi to oppose PPP in the elections. The IJI gained substantial majorities in Punjab and Sharif was re-elected Chief Minister of Punjab.

In December 1989, Sharif decided to remain in the 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)

Sharif led a conservative alliance to victory, becoming the Prime Minister; investigation into the election would later reveal that the election was rigged in favour of Sharif by the Pakistani intelligence through channeling millions of rupees into his election campaign.

The conservatives for the first time in the country’s history came to power under a democratic system under Nawaz Sharif, who became the 12th Prime Minister of Pakistan on 1 November 1990 as well as head of IJI. He succeeded Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister.  IJI had been created and funded by Zia loyalists in the ISI; they gave Rs 15 million.  He had campaigned on a conservative platform and had vowed to reduce government corruption focussing on improving the nation’s infrastructure and spurring the growth of digital telecommunication. He privatised government banks and opened the door for further industrial privatisation; disbanding Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s policies. He legalised transactions of foreign money exchange through private money exchanges. His privatisation policies were continued by Benazir Bhutto and Shaukat Aziz in the mid-1990s and 2000s respectively.

Conservative policies


Nawaz Sharif meeting with conservative intellectuals of Pakistan in Sindh Province, c. 1990s.

Sharif took steps to initiate Islamisation. The continuation of conservative change in Pakistan started by Zia-ul-Haq was encouraged. Reforms introduced for:

  • Fiscal conservatism
  • Supply-side economics
  • Bioconservatism
  • Religious conservatism in Pakistan.

He raised the Kashmir issue in international forums and worked toward a peaceful transfer of power in Afghanistan; to help end the rampant trading of illicit drugs and weapons across the border.

  • He intensified General Zia-ul-Haq’s controversial Islamisation policies
  • He Introduced Islamic Laws such as the Shariat Ordinance and Bait-ul-Maal (to help poor orphans’ widows etc.)
  • He ordered the Ministry of Religion to prepare reports and recommendations for steps taken toward Islamisation.

He ensured the establishment of three committees:

  1. Ittehad-e-bain-ul-Muslemeen (Unity of Muslims Bloc)
  2. Nifaz-e-Shariat Committee (Sharia Establishment Committee)
  3. Islamic Welfare Committee

He believed in forming a Muslim Bloc by uniting all Central Asian Muslim countries and so extended the membership of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to all Central Asian countries. Nawaz Sharif ruled confidently due to the majority he enjoyed in the assembly. He had disputes with three successive army chiefs.

 Domestic issues

Following the passing of the Resolutions 660, 661, and 665, Sharif sided with the United Nations on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Sharif’s government criticised Iraq for invading a fellow Muslim country, which led to strain in Pakistan’s relationship with Iraq. This strain continued as Pakistan improved relations with Iran, and this foreign policy continued with Benazir Bhutto, and Pervez Musharraf until the removal of Saddam Hussain in 2003.

Sharif concurred with former Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg over the 1991 Gulf War; under directions from General Beg, Pakistan Armed Forces participated in the conflict and the Army Special Service Group and the Naval Special Service Group was rushed to Saudi Arabia to provide security to Saudi royal family. Sharif also supported the new Chief of Army Staff General Asif Nawaz over paramilitary operation in Sindh.

During his first term, he found it difficult to work with PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a potent force in Karachi. The MQM and PPP opposed Sharif due to his focus on beautifying Punjab and Kashmir while neglecting Sindh.

The MQM, a liberal force, also opposed Sharif’s conservatism. The clash between liberalism and conservatism forces soon erupted in 1992 when political tension began to rise as both party renegades initiated an ideological war against each other. Despite MQM being a part of the government with Sharif, more and more problems surfaced between Sharif and the MQM in 1992. Sharif’s government passed a resolution in the Parliament for launching paramilitary operations to end the cold war between PML-N and MQM.

During this time, the centre left of Pakistan Peoples Party remained neutral watching the cold war between liberal and conservative forces. Prime Minister Sharif also concurred with Chief of Army Staff General Asif Nawaz on the paramilitary operation in Sindh which was launched in 1992.  It brought violence and economic halt in the country that dismantled Sharif’s industrialisation and investment process. Benazir Bhutto, during this time remained silent as she too had opposed the MQM but due to pressure exerted by her brother Murtaza Bhutto, it had come to a halt. The period between 1992–1994 is considered the bloodiest in the history of the city, when many went missing.

Industrialization and privatisation

Shortly after assuming the office of prime minister, Sharif announced his economic policy under the programme called, the “National Economic Reconstruction Program ” (NERP) which introduced a high level of western-styled capitalist economic system.

It was acknowledged that unemployment had become Pakistan’s greatest disadvantage in its economic growth and only industrial and privatization could solve the economic slowdown. An intensified Privatization Program was commenced and presided by Sharif in his vision to “turn Pakistan into a (South) Korea by encouraging greater private saving and investment to accelerate economic growth.”

In 1990, Sharif announced the nuclear policy which aimed to continue peaceful atomic energy benefit for country’s economic infrastructure. Sharif expanded and industrialized nuclear energy program in the whole country and a peaceful economic infrastructure was extensively built by him by the 1990s. Many of the nuclear medicine and nuclear engineering projects were completed under his government as part of Sharif’s Atoms for Peace program.

The privatization programme came as a response to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the Peoples party led by Benazir, and Sharif’s spontaneous programme was as swift as the nationalization programme of Peoples Party in the 1970s. However, Sharif lacked the charisma and personality of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and countered Bhutto’s ideology with full force by aping him. During the period 1990–93, around 115 nationalized industries were put under private-ownership management, but this was controversial as the programme lacked competition, and was largely controlled by favoured insiders.The favouritism shown in privatization of the industrial and banking units by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to become the hallmark, and the rise of strong business oligarchs who concentrated enormous assets, further increasing inequality in Pakistan and contributing to political instability.

Privatization programme took the GDP growth rate to 7.57% (1992), but it dropped to 4.37% (1993-1998).

Sharif upgraded Islamic laws such as Shariat Ordinance and Bait-ul-Maal (to help poor orphans widows) to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. Sharif’s family was affected by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s nationalization policy. A number of important industries, such as:

  • Pakistan National Shipping Corporation
  • National Electric Power Regulatory Authority
  • Pakistan International Airlines
  • Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation
  • Pakistan State Oil

were opened to private sector. In 1990, Prime Minister Sharif successfully privatised the National Development Finance Corporation.

He introduced and inaugurated several large-scale projects to stimulate the economy, such as the Ghazi-Barotha Hydropower plant. However, unemployment remained a challenge. He imported thousands of yellow-cab taxis for young Pakistanis; this program came at a cost; few of the loans were repaid to the government and Sharif founded it difficult to keep the taxis at a low rate as the young and poor could not afford a higher price. Sharif privatised these taxis at low rate and the steel industry was forced to pay the remaining cost.

During his first term Sharif intensified policies of industrialisation and privatisation of major industries that were nationalised by former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Undoing what was previously done in the 1970s remained a challenge for Sharif but, despite the slowdown of the economy, Sharif reversed major policies of Bhutto and within a short span of time, 90% of the industries were industrialized and privatized by him. This radical move did have a positive impact on country’s economy and it improved at an appropriate level.

Sharif policies were continued by Benazir Bhutto, who nationalised those industries that needed a government bailout plan, and by Pervez Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz in the 2000s who managed to privatise all the major industries by the end of 2008.


A line graph indicated policy benefits enjoyed by Punjab.

During his first term, Sharif focused his industrialization on Punjab and Kashmir; few projects were completed in Khyber and Balochistan provinces, while Sindh did not get the benefit. After severe criticism from Pakistan Peoples Party and the liberal-secular Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), Sharif launched the Orangi Cottage Industrial Zone which was completed and inaugurated by him.

However, prime minister’s reputation in Sindh was badly damaged because of his focus with Lahore and Kashmir’s beautification, and neglect of other provinces. Sharif’s industrialization was also targeted by his opponents as it was focused on Punjab and Kashmir. His opponents argued that Sharif, as prime minister, obtained permits for building factories for his business. Sharif is also blamed for expanding and financing the Armed Forces secret industrial conglomerate. He is held responsible for bribing generals to protect himself.  Sharif strongly criticized former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s socialist economics policies, citing them as “lamentable state of Pakistan”. His privatization policies were also strongly criticised by former science adviser Dr. Mubashir Hassan, who called Sharif’s privatization “unconstitutional”. Other PPP members maintained that nationalization measures were protected by the Parliament which gave them a constitutional status; the Peoples Party felt the privatization policies were illegal and was taking place without parliamentary approval and parliament was not taken in confidence.

Science policy

Sharif authorized the establishment of the Jinnah Antarctic Station in 1991. Sharif took steps for government control of science in Pakistan and the projects needed his authorization.

In 1991, he authorized the Pakistan Antarctic Program of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and Pakistan Navy’s Weapons Engineering Division, and established the Jinnah Antarctic Station and Polar Research Cell.

In 1992, Pakistan became an Associate Member of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research which was signed by the Science Adviser Munir Ahmed Khan at United Nations. Like Benazir, the ongoing nuclear weapons and the energy program remained one of his top priorities. Sharif countered international pressure, and followed Benazir. He refused to compromise the program in spite of the United States offer of large economic aid to Pakistan. Unlike Benazir, Sharif’s nuclear policy was seen as less aggressive towards India and focused on the atomic programme for the benefit of civil society, and he set forth a nuclear policy to build civil nuclear power.

With this vision, he intensively used the integrated atomic programme for medical and economic purposes; his nuclear policy was viewed by experts as vintage Atoms for Peace program— the United States’ 1950s program to use the nuclear energy for civil purposes, and to promote peaceful nuclear technology in the world as well.

In 1993, Sharif authorized the establishment of:

  • The Institute of Nuclear Engineering (INE) and promoted the policy of peaceful use of nuclear energy.
  • On 28 July 1997, Sharif declared the year as “year of science” in Pakistan
  • He allotted funds for the 22nd INSC College on Theoretical Physics.
  • In 1999, Sharif signed an executive decree, declaring 28 May as the National Science Day in Pakistan.

Nuclear policy

On 7 November 1990, the prime minister announced the nuclear policy on public television. He stated: “the peaceful [atomic] programme which . . . would be accelerated to accommodate growing [nuclear] energy needs and to make up for rising [oil] prices. And, of course, (Pakistan) will construct new nuclear power plants.”

On 26 November, Sharif authorized talks with the US to solve the nuclear crisis after the US tightened the embargo on Pakistan, prompting him to send  finance minister Sartaj Aziz to hold talks in Washington. It was widely reported in Pakistan that the US Assistant Secretary of State Teresa Schaffer had told Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan to halt the uranium enrichment programme.

In December, France’s Commissariat à l’énergie atomique agreed to provide a commercial 900 MW power plant, but plans did not materialize as France wanted Pakistan to provide   funding for the plant. In December, a financial embargo was placed, and the country’s economy felt the effect which prompted Sharif to replace the finance minister. Sharif then used Munir Ahmad Khan to convince IAEA to allow Pakistan a nuclear plant in Chashma, and Khan intensively lobbied with IAEA for that. In December 1990, IAEA allowed Pakistan to establish CHASNUPP-I, signed with China; the IAEA also gave approval of upgrading of the KANUPP-I in 1990.  During his first term, Sharif intensified his non-nuclear weapon policy and strictly followed the policy of deliberate nuclear ambiguity which was continued by Benazir.

Responding to US embargo, Sharif publicly announced that: “Pakistan possessed no [atomic] bomb… Pakistan would be happy to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) provided India “first did the same.”

Sharif intensified his move to enhance Pakistan’s integrated nuclear development and authorized projects that seemed to be important in his point of view. He promoted the peaceful nuclear energy programme, and signed for the CHASNUPP-I reactor with People’s Republic of China for commercial electricity use. Sharif also proposed to use nuclear development mainly for economical usage for the country’s benefit. His policy to use the nuclear programme for economical benefit was continued by Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf.

 1992 Co-operatives societies’ scandal

Sharif lost support from Punjab and Kashmir when the co-operatives societies’ scandal became public. Co-operatives societies accept deposits from members and can legally make loans only to members for purposes that benefit the society and its members. However, mismanagement of the societies led to a collapse in which millions of Pakistanis lost money in 1992. In Punjab and Kashmir, around 700,000 people, mainly poor, lost all their savings when the states cooperatives societies went bankrupt. It was discovered that the society had granted billions of rupees to the Ittefaq Group of Industries— Sharif’s owned Steel mill. Though Ittefaq Group’s management hurriedly repaid the loans to the affected, the prime minister’s reputation was tarnished.

1993 Constitutional Crisis

In 1993, Sharif survived a serious constitutional crisis when it was reported that he had developed serious authority issues with the President. On 18 April 1993, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan with the support of the Pakistan Army used his reserve powers under (58-2b, 8th Amendment) to dissolve the National Assembly, the lower house. Khan appointed Mir Balakh Sher as the interim prime minister. When the news reached Sharif, he refused to accept this, and moved the Supreme Court of Pakistan.  On 26 May 1993, Sharif returned to power after the Supreme Court ruled the Presidential Order as unconstitutional and reconstituted the National Assembly immediately. The Court ruled, 10–1, that the president could dissolve the assembly only if a constitutional breakdown had occurred, and the government’s incompetence or corruption was irrelevant. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was the only dissenting judge; he later became 13th Chief Justice of Pakistan.

End of First Term

However, issues with the president over authority increased and a subsequent political standoff occurred between the president and the prime minister. In July 1993, Sharif resigned under pressure from the Pakistan Armed Forces but negotiated a settlement that resulted in the removal of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan as well; Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Shamim Alam and the Chief of Army Staff General Abdul Waheed Kakar forced President Ishaq Khan to resign from the presidency and end the political standoff. Under the scrutiny of the Pakistan Armed Forces, an interim and transitional government was formed and new parliamentary election was held after three months.

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was born in Lahore, Punjab on 25 December 1949 (age 41) and served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan from November 1990 to July 1993.

  • Spouse: Kulsoom Nawaz
  • Children: 4
  • Parents: Shamim and Sharif
  • Residence: Prime Minister’s Secretariat
  • Political party: Pakistan Muslim League (N)

 Alma mater   

  • Punjab University Law College
  • Government College University
  • Religion: Islam
  • Website: pmln.org

Chief Minister of Punjab: 9 April 1985 – 13 August 1990

By courtesy:  Schajee – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11747919

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