Maryam Nawaz Sharif
@MaryamNSharif I personally think cordial relations with new Indian
govt should be cultivated. Will help remove psychological barriers, fear &
She has the face of a movie star, political savvy of Benazir Bhutto and
a rising role model for the nation’s youth as “abba,” Prime Minister
Nawas Sharif, reposes growing trust in her abilities. Meet Maryam Nawaz Sharif, 40, the new political star on Pakistan’s
political firmament — twitter-savvy, yet traditional, and certainly
among the most arresting faces in South Asian dynastic politics.
Last month, the Cambride-doctoral-aspirant daughter of Pakistan prime
minister Sharif — notice how Maryam retains her maiden name — was
named chairperson of the PM Youth Programme, an outreach of the
six-month-old Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) regime.
Within 15 days of her investiture, Ms. Sharif has been tasked to
spearhead the most ambitious Youth Loan Scheme in Pakistan’s history.
She’ll work pro bono and ensure bankers and civil servants,
one-and-a-half times her age, dispense loans worth Pakistani Rs.100
billion (Nearly $9.5 billion) in the next seven months to some 100,000
Pakistani entrepreneurs, 50 percent being women.
Ms. Sharif’s presence has ensured that the prime minister himself sat
with the team for over 60 hours and promised zero-tolerance to political
jockeying, those associated with the programme told this IANS columnist
during a visit here. Fifty-five model business plans have now been
posted to guide the applicants.
Hereafter, monthly ballots will decide who gets the first tranche of
loans. Those left out – but whose proposals matched the criteria
otherwise – will flow into the next month’s ballot. The loans entail a
service charge of eight percent. Banks will subsidize the remaining
A record 2.1 million application forms have been downloaded over just six days.
Such numbers are both a challenge and an opportunity for the elegant
Lahore-born known to relax to the music of Rahat Fateh Ali. If she can
pull off the loans without her bankers courting a scandal, schemes on
micro businesses, skill development, fee reimbursement, and laptop
computers will be the other components of the Youth Programme. “We’re happy, so long as the money comes back,” the chairman of a top Pakistani Bank told this IANS columnist informally.
An alumna of the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Lahore, Ms. Sharif is now
a direct counterweight for the youth constituency coveted by cricketer
and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan.
Khan leads, say on twitter, with over 800,000 follows, but Ms. Sharif
is not doing too badly at 200,000 already. It’s a medium she used
extensively to connect with new-age Pakistan during the election
campaign that culminated in May last. Evidence? Ms. Sharif has 26,000
tweets under her belt, nearly 15 times more than the more-reticent Khan.
For the record, Fatima Bhutto, of the Bhutto family, is marginally
ahead at 238,000, though Bilawal, the official political heir of slain
prime minister Benazir Bhutto, languishes at 98,000.
The Sharif clan isn’t without internecine claims, though. While Nawaz
Sharif’s two sons, Hussain and Hassan, haven’t shown a direct interest
in politics so far, his brother Shahbaz, who is the ruling party’s No.2
and chief minister of Punjab, has a talented son, Hamza, 39, who is
already a member of the National Assembly.
Beyond a famous maiden surname, Ms. Sharif’s rapid climb is due to tact
and communication. A query on whether the clause of a “guarantor” for
the grant of money can be replaced by “property papers” evoked an
immediate response triggering dozens of “likes” and reteets.
So do hundreds of questions even on specific project ideas. Result? The
Pakistani visual media, not just state-owned PTV, finds Ms. Sharif’s
public engagements a manna for their ratings.
Her tact was in evidence when Mr. Sharif threw out her husband, one Capt. Mohd. Safdar, from PML-N last year. “I’m glad that my father preferred justice and equity over familial
relations. This is an unexampled step, which negated the notion that
PMLN is a family party or patronises favouritism. No one is above law.
Justice & fairness must prevail. PMLN stands for rule of law,” Ms.
But not before tweeting a soothing message on her husband. “I am also
glad that Safdar has taken it positively and vows to abide by party
rules and regulations. Thankfully, we as a family keep politics and
family matters separate,” she posted.
“Maryam is sincere, controversy-free and a role model,” says Majyd Aziz
Balagamwala, a Pakistani industry senior in Sindh, who steered the
Benzir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Programme that trained 200,000
marginalized youth. “She deserves to be groomed for higher responsibilities.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be attending Narendra Modi’s
swearing-in ceremony here on May 26, Pak government sources said on
Saturday. Pakistan PM House spokesperson confirmed that Sharif will be visiting New Delhi following Modi’s invite.
The two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting on May 27, said the
Pakistan prime minister’s office. Pakistan foreign minister Sartaz Aziz
would accompany Sharif during the visit.
The Pakistani premier’s attendance will be a first in the history of the nuclear-armed neighbour countries.
Sharif’s decision comes after days of speculations following New
Delhi’s invite. However, Tariq Azeem, advisor the Pak PM told Times
Now: “Don’t expect discussions on any big issues.”
Friday’s pre-dawn attack on the Indian consulate by Taliban in Herat in
western Afghanistan, just three days before Narendra Modi’s swearing
in, underscored the extremely tough task for Modi as he opens up a new
channel of communication with the Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan. The attack came just days after Modi invited all Saarc leaders, including Sharif.
Sharif had telephoned Modi to congratulate him on his party’s election
victory and invited him to visit Pakistan after assuming office.
Other key Saarc leaders, Sri Lankan President President Mahinda
Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan Prime Minister
Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom have confirmed that they will
attend the ceremony.