Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (Urdu: نواز شریف, pronounced [nəˈʋaːz ʃəˈriːf]; born 25 December 1949) is a major politician, steel mill industrialist and business magnate, serving as the 12th Prime Minister of Pakistan in two non-consecutive terms from November 1990 to July 1993, and from February 1997 until the military coup d’état staged to end his government on 12 October 1999. He is currently President of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), one of Pakistan’s major national and largest conservative political party. As the owner of Ittefaq Group, a leading steel mill conglomerate, he is also one of the country’s wealthiest industrialists.
Sharif rose to political and public prominence as a member of General Zia-ul-Haq‘s military regime in the 1980s. Supported by then-Governor of Punjab General Ghulam Jilani Khan, Sharif was appointed the province’s Chief Minister by Zia in 1985. After Zia’s death and Benazir Bhutto’s being elected Prime Minister in 1988, Sharif emerged as the primary opposition leader from the conservative Pakistan Muslim League and led the right-wing conservative alliance, IDA against Benazir Bhutto. When Benazir was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990 on corruption charges, Sharif secure the nomination and successfully campaigned for the office of prime minister. Upon being elected, Sharif launched privatisation and economic liberalisation policy measure programs to alleviate the national economy, deregulating the major industries and strengthening the private-sector of the country. In 1993, Sharif survived a serious constitutional crises when president Ghulam Ishaq attempted to dismiss Sharif on similar charges, but Sharif successfully challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. Eventually, both men were ultimately persuaded to step down and break the gridlock in 1993 by then-chief of army staff Abdul Waheed Kakar and chairman joint chiefs general Shamim Alam Khan.
Serving as the Leader of the Opposition during Benazir’s second tenure, Sharif was again re-elected to prime minister with a historic two-thirds majority in parliament, after Benazir was again dismissed by her own hand-picked president Farooq Leghari. In office, Sharif replaced Leghari with Rafiq Tarar as president, then stripped the Presidency of its powers by passing the Thirteenth Amendment. He also notably ordered Pakistan’s first nuclear tests in response to neighbouring India‘s second nuclear tests, as part of his tit-for-tat policy, a termed he coined thereafter. When Western countries suspended foreign aid, Sharif responded by freezing the foreign currency reserves to prevent further capital flight, but this only worsened economic conditions.
With rising unemployment and record foreign debt, Sharif’s second term also saw tussles with the judiciary and unified armed forces. After Sharif was summoned for contempt by the Supreme Court in 1997, his party’s workers attacked the supreme court building and Chief Justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah. Sharif also fell out with the chief of army staff general Jehangir Karamat and controversially replaced him with Pervez Musharraf in 1998, but after Pakistan’s haphazard performance in the Kargil War, relations between Sharif and armed forces deteriorated. Furthermore, the relations with chief of naval staff admiral Fasih Bokhari and chief of air staff air chief marshal PQ Mehdi further strained and eventually turned into a covert hostility, on the issue involving Musharraf’s promotion to chairman join chiefs and Kargil war. Finally, on October 1999, Sharif made an attempted to relieve Musharraf from his command on 12 October 1999, the armed instead ousted Sharif’s government, exiling him to Saudi Arabia. Sharif returned in 2007, and his party contested general elections a year later. He successfully called for Musharraf’s impeachment and the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The PML-N now forms the provincial government in Punjab under Sharif’s brother Shahbaz, and is Pakistan’s main opposition party.