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Shehbaz Sharif, stepping out of his brother’s shadow, will lead Pakistan

Shehbaz Sharif, a seasoned and strict leader, is expected to become the new prime minister of Pakistan after the fall of Imran Khan† Shehbaz Sharif is to be appointed by the National Assembly on Monday. He is the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, who served as Prime Minister three times before being ousted in 2017 for alleged corruption and jailed, then released on medical grounds two years later, and has lived in exile in the UK ever since. The president of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is an accomplished politician himself at 70 years old. For many years he headed the government of the Punjab province, the country’s most populous and his party’s electoral stronghold.

Serious Leader

A stern leader, known for his passionate outbursts, he was known to quote revolutionary poems in his speeches and public gatherings, and his colleagues considered him a workaholic. He had inherited the family steel business with his brother when he was a young businessman, before being first elected to a provincial post in 1988. In these roles, he led a series of large-scale infrastructure projects, including Pakistan’s first metro bus service. His penchant for surprise visits to government offices, dressed in a suit and safari hat, enabled him to constantly keep officials on their toes. Still, his critics say he failed to address the province’s core issues — including civil service, health care and agricultural reform — and focused primarily on projects for electoral purposes, such as distributing laptops to students or offering free transportation to the unemployed.

Released on bail

He is also linked with bribery and corruption, the charges his supporters say are the result of a political vendetta by deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan. In December 2019, the Anti-Corruption Authority (NAB) seized nearly 20 properties belonging to Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza, accusing them of money laundering. He was arrested and jailed in September 2020, but released on bail nearly six months later pending a pending trial. Unlike his older brother, whose relations were strained with his opponents and with the military, he is considered a more flexible negotiator who can compromise even with his enemies. The military is Pakistan’s most powerful institution and has ruled the country for nearly half of its history, pulling the strings even when it isn’t in power itself. “I have always been a strong supporter of effective coordination between Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” he said, referring to the administrative capital and the nearby military headquarters. He remains popular despite the headlines about his multiple marriages or his numerous properties, including luxury apartments in London and Dubai. His latest marriage to writer Tehmina Durrani has largely put an end to the rumours. Tehmina Durrani, a feminist whose book ‘My Lord and Master’ gained her international fame, is also credited with improving Shehbaz Sharif’s respect for women. If he becomes prime minister, he will face difficult economic and security challenges. Economic growth is stagnating and the violent actions of pakistani talibanand separatist groups in Balochistan are on the rise.

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