Stepping out of Nawaz Sharif’s shadow: All you need to know about Shehbaz Sharif, set to be next Pakistan prime minister


Pakistan's political crisis continues after Imran Khan lost the no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly.

A new prime minister will be chosen today, with centrist Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) chief Shehbaz Sharif already anointed to lead the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people.

Also read: Imran Khan isn't alone: When Pakistan prime ministers faced a no-confidence vote

We take a look at who he is and his political career so far.

Life and times of Shehbaz Sharif

Shehbaz Sharif is the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A businessman by profession, he began his political career after getting elected to the Provincial Assembly of Punjab in the 1988 general election.

In 1990, he was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan. However, his term in the Assembly ended prematurely when it was dissolved in 1993.

In 1997, he became the chief minister of the politically important province of Punjab. A military coup in 1999 deposed the government, forcing Shehbaz and his family to spend years in self-exile in Saudi Arabia. He returned to Pakistan only in 2007.

He was appointed the chief minister of Punjab for a second term after the PML-N's victory in the province in the 2008 general elections. He was also nominated as the PML-N president after his brother Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from holding office. In 2013, he was once again elected as chief minister of Punjab, making him the longest-serving CM of the province. He served his term until the party’s defeat in the 2018 polls.

In 2018, after losing the elections to Imran Khan, he was nominated for the office of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly by one 111 Members of the National Assembly and has been serving in the post since then.

Also read: Timeline of events on how Pakistan PM Imran Khan lost his post in no-confidence vote

Sharif’s controversies

The younger Sharif has not escaped corruption allegations or controversy that have dogged his elder brother.

In 2003, while still in exile, Shehbaz was charged with ordering the police in 1998 to kill five religious students suspected to be involved in terrorist acts. He refuted the allegations and said they were politically motivated.

The Sharif brothers returned to Pakistan in 2007, but Shehbaz was barred from running in elections a year later as the murder charges lingered. He was acquitted in 2008.

Controversy once again caught up with Shehbaz in December 2019 when National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seized 23 of his properties, accusing him and his son, Hamza Sharif, of money laundering. He was arrested on charges that he had accumulated assets worth Rs 7,328 million in connivance with his co-accused family members.

In April last year, the Lahore High Court released him on bail in the money-laundering case.

Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif with his brother Shehbaz Sharif. AFP

Shehbaz as an administrator

Shehbaz has been called an efficient administrator, and a Bloomberg report had once stated that he slept only four hours each night, while dedicating the rest of his time to work.

The report added that the younger Sharif also had the ability bulldoze through Pakistan’s ponderous bureaucracy and complete infrastructure projects in record time.

As Punjab chief minister, he was known for his love for infrastructure development and heavily invested in the construction of transportation systems, which included mega projects like inter-city rapid transport systems, highways, and rural road development. Under his rule, the Orange Line, the first of the Lahore Metro was initiated but is yet to be completed.

He also paid special emphasis on education in the province. Alif Ailaan, a non-profit, reported that under his rule, Punjab's education system had outperformed all other provinces.

Moreover, during Sharif’s second term, particular attention was given to the grievances of women of the province, including setting up the Punjab Commission on Status of Women (PCSW).

Political future

Another thing that bodes in Shehbaz's favour is that he is seen to have a less prickly relationship with the military than his brother.

Shehbaz also has good foreign ties, he has accompanied the elder Sharif on foreign trips, particularly to China. He also shares a good relationship Turkish president Recep Ergdogan.

With inputs from agencies

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Stepping out of Nawaz Sharif’s shadow: All you need to know about Shehbaz Sharif, set to be next Pakistan prime minister
Stepping out of Nawaz Sharif’s shadow: All you need to know about Shehbaz Sharif, set to be next Pakistan prime minister
ASE News
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