'Lion of Punjab' Sharif a political survivor

ISLAMABAD • Three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, whose power base earned him the moniker "Lion of Punjab", is a political survivor who has repeatedly roared back to the top office in Pakistan.

Mr Sharif scored a hat-trick last Friday after being ousted from office again - this time after being disqualified by the Supreme Court. But the 67-year-old - who hails from Pakistan's richest and most populous province, Punjab - has already made two seemingly unthinkable comebacks, underscoring the unpredictable nature of Pakistani politics.

Born into a Kashmiri family of industrialists in Lahore on Dec 25, 1949, Mr Sharif studied law at Punjab University and worked in the family business before going into politics in the Pakistan Muslim League under the patronage of military dictator Zia-ul Haq.

He became first finance minister and then chief minister of Punjab - a post he held for five years from 1985 until he was elected prime minister in 1990.

He comes across as soft-spoken and shy with the international media. But he earned a reputation for combativeness during his two previous terms as prime minister, from 1990 to 1993, and from 1997 to 1999.

Three years into his first term, he was sacked on corruption charges. And in his second term, his government buckled under tensions with the army, which seized power in 1999. Mr Sharif was sentenced in a military court to life imprisonment for hijacking and terrorism, but was allowed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000. He returned in 2007 after a presidential pardon.

Mr Sharif was sentenced in a military court to life imprisonment for hijacking and terrorism, but was allowed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000. He returned in 2007 after a presidential pardon.

"The Tiger Roars Again" screamed headlines when he won the 2013 election and became prime minister for a third time, his most remarkable comeback yet.

The corruption controversy erupted with the publication last year of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful.

Three of Mr Sharif's four children - Maryam, his presumptive political heir, and his sons, Hasan and Hussein - were implicated in the papers.

Mr Sharif has denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the probe as biased. With his ouster, no Pakistani prime minister has completed a full term in power since independence.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline ''Lion of Punjab' Sharif a political survivor'. Print Edition | Subscribe