Profile: Nawaz Sharif
Positions that Nawaz Sharif has held:
Nawaz Sharif was a participant or observer in the following events:
Hamid Gul, Nawaz Sharif, and Osama bin Laden conspire to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Husein Haqqani, a Pakistani journalist who claims to have been involved in the plot, will later say that ISI Director Hamid Gul contacted Osama bin Laden, who was then known to provide financial support to Afghan mujaheddin, to pay for a coup/assassination of Bhutto. Gul also brings Nawaz Sharif, then the governor of Punjab province and a rival of Bhutto, into the plot. Bin Laden agrees to provide $10 million on the condition that Sharif transforms Pakistan into a strict Islamic state, which Sharif accepts. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 193-194] Bhutto is not assassinated at this time, but bin Laden allegedly helps Sharif replace Bhutto one year later (see October 1990).
In October 1990, Nawaz Sharif is running for election to replace Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister of Pakistan. According to a senior Pakistani intelligence source, bin Laden passes a considerable amount of money to Sharif and his party, since Sharif promises to introduce a hard-line Islamic government. Bin Laden has been supporting Sharif for several years. There is said to be a photograph of Sharif chatting with bin Laden. Sharif wins the election and while he does not introduce a hard-line Islamic government, his rule is more amenable to bin Laden’s interests than Bhutto’s had been. Sharif will stay in power until 1993, then will take over from Bhutto again in 1996 and rule for three more years. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 170-171] Former ISI official Khalid Khawaja, a self-proclaimed close friend of bin Laden, will later claim that Sharif and bin Laden had a relationship going back to when they first met face to face in the late 1980s. [ABC News, 11/30/2007] There are also accounts of additional links between Sharif and bin Laden (see Spring 1989, Late 1996, and Between Late 1996 and Late 1998).
Pakistan’s army chief and the head of the ISI, its intelligence agency, propose to sell heroin to pay for the country’s covert operations, according to Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister at the time. Sharif claims that shortly after becoming prime minister, army chief of staff Gen. Aslam Beg and ISI director Gen. Asad Durrani present him with a plan to sell heroin through third parties to pay for covert operations that are no longer funded by the CIA, now that the Afghan war is over. Sharif claims he does not approve the plan. Sharif will make these accusations in 1994, one year after he lost an election and became leader of the opposition. Durrani and Beg will deny the allegations. Both will have retired from these jobs by the time the allegations are made. The Washington Post will comment in 1994, “It has been rumored for years that Pakistan’s military has been involved in the drug trade. Pakistan’s army, and particularly its intelligence agency… is immensely powerful and is known for pursuing its own agenda.” The Post will further note that in 1992, “A consultant hired by the CIA warned that drug corruption had permeated virtually all segments of Pakistani society and that drug kingpins were closely connected to the country’s key institutions of power, including the president and military intelligence agencies.” [Washington Post, 9/12/1994]
US agents uncover photographs showing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has ties with the Pakistani ISI. Several weeks after the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), US agents come to Pakistan to search for Ramzi Yousef for his part in that bombing. Searching the house of Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, they find photographs of Zahid and KSM, who is also one of Yousef’s uncles, with close associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. [Financial Times, 2/15/2003] According to another account, the pictures actually show Zahid with Sharif, and also with Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan until his death in 1988. [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 66] Pictures of Osama bin Laden are also found. US agents are unable to catch Yousef because Pakistani agents tip him off prior to the US raids. Yousef is able to live a semi-public life (for instance, he attends weddings), despite worldwide publicity naming him as a major terrorist. The Financial Times will later note that Yousef, KSM, and their allies “must have felt confident that their ties to senior Pakistani Islamists, whose power had been cemented within the country’s intelligence service [the ISI], would prove invaluable.” [Financial Times, 2/15/2003] Several months later, Yousef and KSM unsuccessfully attempt to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s (see July 1993). She is an opponent of Sharif and the ISI. [Slate, 9/21/2001; Guardian, 3/3/2003] The Los Angeles Times will later report that KSM “spent most of the 1990s in Pakistan. Pakistani leadership through the 1990s sympathized with Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist rhetoric. This sympathy allowed [him] to operate as he pleased in Pakistan.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002]
Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) unsuccessfully try to assassinate Behazir Bhutto, the leader of the opposition in Pakistan at the time. Yousef, with his friend Abdul Hakim Murad, plan to detonate a bomb near Bhutto’s home as she is leaving it. However, they are stopped by a police patrol. Yousef had hidden the bomb when the police approached, and after they left the bomb is accidentally set off, severely injuring him. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 25] KSM is in Pakistan at the time and will visit Yousef in the hospital, but his role in the bombing appears to be limited to funding it. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 25; Guardian, 3/3/2003] Bhutto had been prime minister in Pakistan before and will return to power later in 1993 until 1996. She will later claim, “As a moderate, progressive, democratically elected woman prime minister of Pakistan, I was a threat to the fundamentalist zealots on multiple levels…” She claims they had “the support of sympathetic elements within Pakistan’s security apparatus,” a reference to the ISI intelligence agency. [Slate, 9/21/2001] This same year, US agents uncover photographs showing KSM with close associates of previous Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Bhutto’s main political enemy at the time. Presumably, this failed assassination will later give KSM and Yousef some political connection and cover with the political factions opposed to Bhutto (see Spring 1993). Sharif will serve as prime minister again from 1997 to 1999. [Financial Times, 2/15/2003]
Not long after bin Laden moves back to Afghanistan (see After May 18, 1996-September 1996), he tries to influence an election in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, is running for reelection against Nawaz Sharif, who had been prime minister earlier in the 1990s. (Bin Laden apparently helped Sharif win in 1990 (see October 1990).) “According to Pakistani and British intelligence sources, bin Laden traveled into Pakistan to renew old acquaintances within the ISI, and also allegedly met or talked with” Sharif. Sharif wins the election. Bhutto will later claim that bin Laden used a variety of means to ensure her defeat and undermine her. She will mention one instance where bin Laden allegedly gave $10 million to some of her opponents. Journalist Simon Reeve will later point out that while Bhutto claims could seem self-serving, “her claims are supported by other Pakistani and Western intelligence sources.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 188-189] It will later be reported that double agent Ali Mohamed told the FBI in 1999 that bin Laden gave Sharif $1 million at some point while Sharif was prime minister (see Between Late 1996 and Late 1998). There are also reports that bin Laden helped Sharif become prime minister in 1990 (see October 1990). While Sharif will not support the radical Islamists as much as they had hoped, they will have less conflict with him that they did with Bhutto. For instance, she assisted in the arrest of Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995), who had attempted to assassinate her (see July 1993).
According to FBI agent Jack Cloonan, in 1999, imprisoned double agent Ali Mohamed will tell Cloonan that he helped arrange a meeting between bin Laden and representatives of Nawaz Sharif, who is prime minister of Pakistan from 1990 through 1993 and again from 1996 to 1999. Mohamed claims that after the meeting he delivered $1 million to Sharif’s representatives as a tribute to Sharif for “not cracking down on the Taliban as it flourished in Afghanistan and influenced the Northwest Frontier Province in Pakistan.” It is unknown when this took place, but it is likely between late 1996, when the Taliban gain control over much of Afghanistan and Sharif as prime minister would have been in a position to crack down against them or not, and late 1998, when Mohamed is arrested in the US (see September 10, 1998). Cloonan will later say that he believes the information from Mohamed is accurate. [ABC News, 11/30/2007] There have been other allegations that Sharif met bin Laden in 1996 and used his help to win the election for prime minister (see Late 1996), and also allegations that bin Laden helped Sharif win the election for prime minister in 1990 (see Late 1996).
Pakistan’s first nuclear test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it. [Source: Associated Press]Pakistan conducts a successful nuclear test. Former Clinton administration official Karl Inderfurth later notes that concerns about an Indian-Pakistani conflict, or even nuclear confrontation, compete with efforts to press Pakistan on terrorism. [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Pakistan actually built its first nuclear weapon in 1987 but kept it a secret and did not test it until this time for political reasons (see 1987). In announcing the tests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declares, “Today, we have settled the score.” [New York Times, 5/4/2003]
Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998. [Source: US Department of Defense]Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to Washington to meet with President Clinton and other top Clinton administration officials. The number one issue for Clinton is Pakistan’s nuclear program, since Pakistan had recently illegally developed and exploded a nuclear weapon (see May 28, 1998). The second most important issue is Pakistan’s economy; the US wants Pakistan to support free trade agreements. The third most important issue is terrorism and Pakistan’s support for bin Laden. Author Steve Coll will later note, “When Clinton himself met with Pakistani leaders, his agenda list always had several items, and bin Laden never was at the top. Afghanistan’s war fell even further down.” Sharif proposes to Clinton that the CIA train a secret Pakistani commando team to capture bin Laden. The US and Pakistan go ahead with this plan, even though most US officials involved in the decision believe it has almost no chance for success. They figure there is also little risk or cost involved, and it can help build ties between American and Pakistani intelligence. The plan will later come to nothing (see October 1999). [Coll, 2004, pp. 441-444]
US President Bill Clinton and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reach an agreement on co-operation between their countries. According to a deal offered by Clinton, the US will refund Pakistan most of the $470 million it owes for a group of F-16 fighters ordered and paid for by Pakistan but never delivered (see August-September 1989). In return, Clinton asks Sharif to close down Pakistani nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan and his operations, as well as training camps for radical Islamists in Afghanistan that are supported by Pakistan. However, Sharif does not fulfill his end of the bargain, and the Pakistani government continues to support both Khan and the training camps. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Sharif thinks he can get away with the inaction because of Clinton’s preoccupation with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and the US’s generally permissive attitude to Pakistani nuclear weapons. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286]
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud visits Pakistan and receives a tour of Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta. Prince Sultan is accompanied on the tour by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The laboratories are the key facility in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286]
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) minister for information, tours Pakistan. He meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. He is also shown around Khan Research Laboratories, the main facility for producing nuclear weapons in Pakistan. According to the Pakistani newspaper Jasarat, the visit is directly linked to nuclear activities: “Prince Abdullah bin Zayed also asked Dr. Qadeer Khan what help he could give them. Dr. Qadeer replied that Pakistan would not present the atomic bomb or a missile on a platter but could train UAE manpower.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286-287]
Nawaz Sharif [Source: Publicity photo]In early May 1999, the Pakistani army, at the instigation of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, seizes a strategic height called Kargil in the Indian province of Kashmir. This creates a grave crisis between Pakistan in India. By early July, the CIA picks up intelligence that Pakistan is preparing to launch nuclear missiles against India if necessary. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to the US on July 4 to meet with President Clinton about this. Clinton is livid and yells at Sharif for breaking promises, not only about Kashmir but also about failing to help with bin Laden. According to notes taken at the meeting, Clinton says he had “asked repeatedly for Pakistani help to bring Osama bin Laden to justice… [Sharif] promised often to do so but had done nothing. Instead, the ISI worked with bin Laden and the Taliban to foment terrorists.” Clinton threatens to release a statement calling worldwide attention to Pakistan’s support for terrorists. He adds, “You’ve put me in the middle today, set the US up to fail, and I won’t let it happen. Pakistani is messing with nuclear war.” Sharif backs down and immediately withdraws his troops from Kargil, ending the crisis. But as a result, Sharif becomes deeply unpopular in Pakistan. A few months later he will be ousted in a coup by Musharraf (see October 12, 1999), the general who started the crisis in the first place. [Coll, 2004, pp. 476-478]
The CIA readies an operation to capture or kill bin Laden, secretly training and equipping approximately 60 commandos from the Pakistani ISI. Pakistan supposedly agrees to this plan in return for the lifting of economic sanctions and more economic aid. [Washington Post, 10/3/2001] Pakistan proposed the plan in December 1998 (see December 2, 1998). US officials were said to be “deeply cynical” of the plan, knowing that Pakistani intelligence was allied with bin Laden (see Autumn 1998). They figured that if Pakistan really wanted bin Laden captured or killed, they could just tell the US when and where he would be, but Pakistan never revealed this kind of information. But the US went ahead with the plan anyway, figuring it held little risk and could help develop intelligence ties with Pakistan. [Coll, 2004, pp. 442-444] After months of training, the commando team is almost ready to go by this month. However, the plan is aborted because on October 12, General Musharraf takes control of Pakistan in a coup (see October 12, 1999). Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ties to use the commando team to protect himself during the coup, but the team dissolves rather than fight on what they judge to be the losing side. Musharraf refuses to reform the team or continue any such operation against bin Laden despite the promise of substantial rewards. [Washington Post, 10/3/2001; Coll, 2004, pp. 442-444, 478-480] Some US officials later say the CIA was tricked, that the ISI just feigned to cooperate as a stalling tactic, and never intended to get bin Laden. [New York Times, 10/29/2001]
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. [Source: Government of Pakistan]Gen. Pervez Musharraf becomes leader of Pakistan in a coup, ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. One major reason for the coup is the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) felt Sharif had to go “out of fear that he might buckle to American pressure and reverse Pakistan’s policy [of supporting] the Taliban.” [New York Times, 12/8/2001] Shortly thereafter, Musharraf replaces the leader of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, because of his close ties to the previous leader. Imtiaz is arrested and convicted of “having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.” It is later revealed that he was keeping tens of millions of dollars earned from heroin smuggling in a Deutsche Bank account. [Financial Times, 8/10/2001] Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, a close ally of Musharraf, is instrumental in the success of the coup. Ahmed actually secured the capital and detained Sharif, but then honored the chain of command and stepped aside so Musharraf, as head of the military, could take over. Ahmed is rewarded by being made the new director of the ISI. [Guardian, 10/9/2001; Coll, 2004, pp. 504-505]
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attempts to return to Pakistan, but his return is thwarted by the Pakistani authorities and he is deported to Saudi Arabia. Sharif, ousted by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 (see October 12, 1999), had been in exile for seven years due to corruption charges. After landing in Pakistan, Sharif, the leader of the political party Pakistan Muslim League-N, is briefly taken into custody and then put on a flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The deportation is a major political event in Pakistan and is marked by clashes between police and Sharif’s supporters. [CNN, 9/10/2007] However, Pakistan’s ISI agency will later broker a deal with Saudi authorities regarding Sharif (see November 20-23, 2007), enabling him to return (see November 25, 2007).
On October 4, 2007, after secret talks with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in London and Dubai, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf issues an amnesty from prosecution for Bhutto and other exiled politicians. Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have been living in exile as both had been facing corruption charges in Pakistan. Both are now free to return. As part of a deal, Bhutto agreed that the members of the main opposition political party she leads, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will abstain from voting when Musharraf runs for a second term as president two days later (in Pakistan, the president is chosen in a parliamentary vote). This ensures Musharraf’s victory (see October 6, 2007). Bhutto will return to Pakistan on October 18. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 386-387]
Following the failed return of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan (see September 10, 2007), officials from Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency meet secretly with Saudi representatives in Riyadh to plan another attempt at bringing him back to the country ahead of forthcoming elections. (It is possible that ISI Director General Nadeem Taj and retired brigadier Niaz Ahmed also meet Sharif in Jeddah). The effort is apparently successful, as Sharif re-enters Pakistan a short time later (see November 25, 2007). Washington Post commentator Bob Novak will say these meetings indicate that if the turmoil in Pakistan causes current President Pervez Musharraf to lose his position, Sharif is “the ISI’s chosen successor.” [Daily Times (Lahore), 11/25/2007; Washington Post, 12/3/2007]
Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N political party and a former prime minister who had spent seven years abroad due to corruption charges, returns to Pakistan and is welcomed by supporters ahead of planned elections. He had made a failed attempt to return two months earlier (see September 10, 2007), but subsequently obtained the support of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, smoothing his path (see November 20-23, 2007). [International Herald Tribune, 11/25/2007] He returns in the middle of a state of emergency declared by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see November 3-December 15, 2007).
Pakistan holds parliamentary elections, and opposition parties are the overwhelming winners. President Pervez Musharraf does not lose his presidency, as he was reelected by the National Assembly several months earlier (see October 6, 2007). However, his party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), loses control of the National Assembly, enabling the opposition parties to select their own prime minister a short time later. Much power will now shift to the position of prime minister, which had been completely overshadowed by Musharraf and his presidency since he took power in a coup in 1999 (see October 12, 1999). The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) wins 120 seats. The PPP was led by Benazir Bhutto until her recent assassination, and is now led by her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), the party led by former primer minister Nawaz Sharif, gets 90. Musharraf’s PML-Q only wins 51 seats. Surprisingly, the Islamic parties are almost completely wiped out. The alliance of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), did well and won two provincial elections in the last election in 2002, but this time it only wins six seats. A secular and moderate party, the Awami National Party, wins in the North-West Frontier Province, taking control from the MMA and forming the new provincial government there. No single party holds a majority, but the PPP immediately announces a coalition with Sharif’s PML-N party, shutting Musharraf’s PML-Q party out. Musharraf once had 80 percent popularity ratings in polls, but after many recent controversial moves, including declaring a state of emergency for over a month to stay in power (see November 3-December 15, 2007), his popularity rating is down to about 20 percent. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 390-391] One month later, the coalition selects a relatively unknown figure, Yousaf Raza Gillani, to be the new prime minister (see March 22-25, 2008).
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia hosts “ice-breaking” talks between the Afghan government, current and “former” Taliban, and representatives of other militant groups. Among the participants are Mullah Omar’s former “foreign minister” and his former Kandahar spokesman, Afghan government officials, and a representative of former mujaheddin commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose group, Hezb-i-Islami, is labeled a “terrorist organization” by the United States. [CNN, 10/5/2008] Hamid Karzai’s brother, Abdul Qayum, and ex-Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif are also reported to be in the meetings. [Independent, 10/8/2008; Independent, 11/13/2008] During the talks, all parties reportedly agree that continued dialogue should be sought. AFP, citing Saudi sources, reports that the negotiators move on to Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, September 27, 2008. A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai will later deny that negotiations were held, saying that Afghan religious scholars had visited Saudi Arabia during Ramadan and attended a dinner with King Abdullah. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahed, also denies any meetings. [Agence France-Presse, 10/7/2008]
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