SHARIF, MIAN NAWAZ (1950) In March 1986, President Zia ulHaq chose Mian Nawaz Sharif, a young industrialist turned politician, to become Punjab’s chief minister What distinguished Sharif was not only his youth—he was in his late thirties when he became chief minister and was the youngest of Pakistan’s four provincial chief executives appointed by Zia ul-Haq—but also the fact that he belonged to an entirely new breed of politicians The local bodies elections of November 1987, by returning a large number of supporters of Nawaz Sharif to the municipal committees all over Punjab, strengthened the chief minister’s political position and also gave the signal that urban Pakistan had finally produced a political force of its own In the elections of November 1988 held after the death of Zia ulHaq, Mian Nawaz Sharif emerged as the most powerful politician outside the ranks of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) He was the only political figure of any consequence from the time of Zia ul-Haq to survive the reemergence of the PPP In December 1988, while the PPP formed a government in Islamabad under the leadership of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif was invited to lead the administration in Lahore formed by the Islami Jamhuri Itehad (IJI), a coalition of right of center and religious parties of which he was the chairman What ensued was a bitter political dispute between Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, operating out of Islamabad, and Chief Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, working out of Lahore Each tried to unseat the other and both failed in their attempts Finally, on 6 August 1990, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed all administrations—those at the center as well as those in the four provinces In the elections held in October 1990, the IJI won the most seats in the National Assembly, and Mian Nawaz Sharif became Pakistan’s twelfth prime minister
The new prime minister decided to free himself from the control still exercised on him by the “troika,” a power-sharing arrangement among three actors—the president, the COAS, and the prime minister This arrangement was put together prior to the induction of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister in December 1988 Ghulam Ishaq Khan struck back in April 1993 by dismissing Mian Nawaz Sharif, his cabinet, and the national and provincial legislatures Mian Nawaz Sharif responded by going to the Supreme Court and challenging the president’s move as unconstitutional The Court, to the great surprise of the president, agreed with Sharif, who was reinstated as prime minister The president refused to surrender, however He persuaded a faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) led by Hamid Nasir Chatta, to leave the PML All these maneuverings brought political paralysis to the country, and the army, under the command of General Abdul Waheed Kakar, intervened The military forced both the president and the prime minister to resign Elections were held in October 1993 under the supervision of an interim administration, and Benazir Bhutto and her Pakistan People’s Party were back in power in Islamabad With the help of Chatta and his group, Bhutto was able to keep Mian Nawaz Sharif out of power in Punjab as well
This ushered in a period of considerable political instability as the opposition, led by Sharif, refused to work with the government The dismissal of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government by President Farooq Leghari on 5 November 1996, followed by another general election on 3 February 1997, dramatically changed the political fortunes of the Sharif family Mian Nawaz Sharif led the Pakistan Muslim League to a massive electoral victory, capturing most of the seats in the National Assembly and in the Provincial Assembly of Punjab For the first time in decades, the PML had a credible presence in Sindh province Taking over as prime minister on 17 February 1997, Sharif acted quickly to consolidate his position He took advantage of the very comfortable majority in the National Assembly to move two constitutional amendments The Thirteenth Amendment took away from the president the power to dissolve the assembly without being advised to do so by the prime minister The Fourteenth Amendment made it unlawful for legislators to cross the floor in the National and Provincial Assemblies Now politically secure, Sharif moved against the judiciary Defying the Supreme Court’s order, delivered in the “judges’ case” of March 1996, that it had the authority to recommend for appointment judges to the superior courts, the prime minister refused to allow five men identified by the chief justice of the Supreme Court to be inducted into the Court What followed was a constitutional crisis that was resolved only after the resignation of the president on 2 December 1997 and the removal from office of Sajjad Ali Shah, the chief justice
On 31 December, Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, a close associate of the Sharif family, was elected president Preoccupied with politics, the prime minister had little time for economics The economic difficulties inherited from the Bhutto period continued to take their toll Although the government adopted a program of structural reforms that had been initially introduced by the caretaker administration of Meraj Khalid and was supported by the International Monetary Fund, the economy did not respond The situation became more serious after the imposition of economic sanctions by the Western nations following the explosion of six nuclear devices by Pakistan in late May 1998 The country came close to bankruptcy in July of that year The military took cognizance of the deteriorating economic situation In a speech in Lahore before the staff and students of the Naval War College, General Jahangir Karamat, COAS, advised the government to pay attention to the economy and to improve its style of management Irritated by this advice, the prime minister asked for the general’s resignation Much to the surprise of his senior army colleagues, the general complied, and was replaced by Lieutenant General Pervez Musharraf in October 1998 The new army commander developed his own difficulties with the prime minister, particularly over the issue of Kashmir
It was not clear how deeply involved the prime minister was in the decision by the military to take over the Kargil heights in the north of Kashmir that were controlled by India The Kargil incident would have led to another war between India and Pakistan had the prime minister not requested US President Bill Clinton to intervene The United States was prepared to help only on the condition that Pakistan withdraw the occupying troops unilaterally and unconditionally The prime minister gave that undertaking which was announced in a joint Pakistan-U.S. statement issued on 4 July 1998. The “Kargil surrender” led to a deep rift between the prime minister and COAS. The prime minister endorsed a bizarre plan to remove the army chief by hijacking the plane in which he was traveling. The plan backfired; the plane landed safely in Karachi after the military had taken over the airport and also placed Islamabad and Rawalpindi under its control. General Musharraf, after landing in Karachi, immediately flew to Islamabad, dismissed the prime minister, arrested him and a number of his close associates, and installed himself as the country’s chief executive at the head of a military regime. Mian Nawaz Sharif was tried on a number of charges including plane hijacking and was sentenced to long prison terms by the Lahore High Court. In 2000, a deal was brokered by Saudi Arabia which allowed Sharif to go to Jeddah in exile provided he did not return to Pakistan or take part in political activities in the country for a period of 10 years, 2000-2010.