Maryam Nawaz Sharif was born into a Kashmiri family that practices trade and is considered one of the richest (French) families.

A Pakistani politician, born in 1973, she is the daughter of Nawaz Sharif, the famous Pakistani politician, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif’s wing) and Prime Minister of Pakistan for 3 terms.

She was elected in early 2024 as Prime Minister of the Punjab Province, and she is the first provincial Prime Minister in the history of Pakistan.

Birth and upbringing

Maryam Nawaz Sharif (her name after her marriage was Maryam Safdar) was born on October 28, 1973 in the city of Lahore, the capital of the Punjab province in eastern Pakistan.

She was born into a Kashmiri trading family, one of the richest families, and hails from the Anantnag region of the Indian-administered Kashmir region.

The family settled in the early twentieth century in the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab, northwestern India, but migrated to Lahore after Pakistan’s independence from India in 1947, where Maryam’s paternal grandfather, Muhammad Sharif, established a small iron and steel factory on the outskirts of Lahore.

Her father, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, served as Prime Minister of Pakistan 3 times, and Prime Minister of Punjab once, and her uncle, Shehbaz Sharif, served as Prime Minister of Pakistan once, and Prime Minister of the Punjab Province 3 times.

According to the Pakistani newspaper "Dawn", Nawaz Sharif's children, as well as Shehbaz, lived their childhood and early life away from the public eye, as their childhood period coincided with the nationalization of family property during the rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif after the end of a press conference in Islamabad for Pakistani opposition parties, May 2019 (French)

Study and scientific training

She received her basic education from Jesus and Mary Convent School in Lahore, where she completed pre-nursery to 10th grade, and then joined Lahore Girls College for secondary school.

She then enrolled at Kinnaird College in Lahore, but the university rejected her due to her poor academic performance. During the same period, her father - who was the Prime Minister of Punjab - suspended the work of the college president, and strikes by students and teaching staff at the college led to the college president being reinstated to work.

She then enrolled at King Edward Medical College in Lahore to study medicine in the late 1980s, but left due to controversy over what was considered an “unlawful admission” of her file.

After that, she entered the University of the Punjab and obtained a master's degree in English literature, then a doctorate in political science, but some challenged the validity of her degree before the Lahore High Court.

After the 1999 coup - carried out by General Pervez Musharraf against her father - Maryam spent 4 months under house arrest with her family, then they moved to live in Saudi Arabia.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif during a celebration in Islamabad at the end of December 2020 (French)

Political and practical experience

Before entering public politics, Maryam Nawaz Sharif was involved in the Sharif family's charitable organizations and served as president of the Sharif Fund, Sharif Medical City, and Sharif Educational Institutes.

She appeared in the public arena for the first time in 2012, supervising the election campaign of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif's wing) to prepare for the 2013 general elections, which the party won, and her father became prime minister for the third time.

Nawaz Sharif was excluded from the prime ministership in 2017 due to accusations of corruption cases in the so-called “Panama Papers”, which constituted a defining moment for Maryam Nawaz, as she entered the public arena to replace her father alongside her uncle Shehbaz Sharif.

She became more involved in politics after her father traveled for treatment and went into exile in the British capital, London, in 2019, which lasted 4 years, before returning in October 2023.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif at a demonstration in Lahore against the government in mid-December 2020 (French)

Jobs and responsibilities

She assumed the presidency of the Prime Minister's Youth Programme, but resigned in 2014 due to criticism from Imran Khan, who was in the opposition at the time, as he accused Nawaz of nepotism in appointing his daughter to this position, in addition to a local party challenging her university degree.

In 2019, she was appointed Vice-President of the PTI, and was actively involved in organizing large rallies against the PTI government led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In January 2023, she was appointed first vice president of the League, making her one of the party's top leaders.

In the February 2024 elections, she ran for two seats in the general elections, the National Assembly seat (Federal Parliament) and the Punjab Provincial Assembly seat, and this was the first time she ran in the general elections.

She won both seats, but withdrew from the National Assembly, because her party nominated her for the position of Prime Minister of Punjab Province.

On February 26, 2024, she was elected in the Punjab Assembly as Prime Minister of the province, thus becoming the first female provincial prime minister in the history of Pakistan.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif during the election campaign, January 2024 (French)

Corruption accusations

Maryam Nawaz Sharif was not immune from corruption accusations and legal prosecutions like many other politicians in Pakistan.

In 2018, the National Accountability Bureau court accused her in the “Avenfield” case related to the purchase of real estate in London, and sentenced her to 7 years in prison, and also sentenced her father to 10 years.

This ruling somewhat affected her political career and prevented her from participating in the 2018 elections, which the Insaf Party won. She also faced corruption charges in several other cases.

She was subsequently released on bail, and in September 2022 the Islamabad High Court dropped her corruption case, allowing her to run in the 2024 general elections.

Source: Al Jazeera + websites