The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (Urdu: پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ن) abbr. PML-N) is a centre-right conservative party in Pakistan. The party is currently in power after having won a Majority in the general elections held in 2013, in the National Assembly. The party also governs the Balochistan and Punjab provinces. The Muslim League (N) is currently presided by Nawaz Sharif. The party's platform is generally conservative, which involves supporting free market capitalism, building a strong national defense, and opposing trade and labour unions.
One of several continuing factions of the original Muslim League, the seeds of party's foundation following the 1985 Elections when the Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo organised the supporters of Dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq into a single party, known as Pakistan Muslim League. After President Zia's death in 1988, under the leadership of Fida Mohammad Khan, a large faction split away from the Junejo-led PML-J, to mark the beginning of new party. Soon it formed a conservative alliance with various right-wing and Islamist political parties, known as Islamic Democratic Alliance. The alliance formed a government in 1990 under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. In 1993, the alliance dissolved and the party assumed its current shape, branding itself as the ("Nawaz" faction) of Pakistan Muslim League after its Leader.
Since its foundation, the Pakistan Muslim League, along with People's Party, dominated the two-party political system. However, after the 1999 coup, the party was eclipsed by its own splinter faction, the Musharraf-supported Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid), for almost a decade. PML-N however regained popularity in 2008 general elections, when it was elected as the principal opposition party. It returned to power following the elections of 2013, with Sharif elected Prime Minister for an unprecedented third term. The party's stronghold is the Punjab province; where it has formed provincial government six times since 1985 (except in 1993 and 2002), thrice under Sharif's brother, Shehbaz.
After the partition of India by the English Crown in 1947, the All-India Muslim League (AIML) became the Muslim League, which was now led by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. After the assassination of Prime Minister Ali Khan, the Muslim League struggled to revive itself, eventually losing control of the East Pakistan in legislative elections by the Left Front. Internal disagreement over party's direction, lack of political program, motivation for public reforms, and inadequate administrative preparations and mismanagement; all led to the public decline of the party. With the Socialist Party, the Muslim League struggled for its survival while facing the Republican Party and Awami League. The martial law in 1958 eventually outlawed the political parties in the country.
The foundational stone and ground base of the PML(N) lies with the Pakistan Muslim League was founded in 1962, as an enriched conservative project derived from the defunct Muslim League. The PML was presided by Fatima Jinnah who actively participated in presidential elections held in 1965 against Ayub Khan. After Fatima Jinnah's death, the PML was presided by Nurul Amin, a Bengali leader, who deepened its role in West Pakistan.
On a nationalist and conservative platform, the party engaged in political campaign against leftist Pakistan Peoples Party and Bengali nationalist, Awami League in general elections held in 1970. It managed to secure only two electoral seats in the East-Pakistan parliament and only ten in National Assembly of Pakistan. In spite of its limited mandate, Nurul Amin became the Prime Minister and Vice-President of Pakistan— the only figure to have appointed as Vice-President. The PML government was short-lived and soon its government fell as an aftermath of the 1971 war. The PML(N) is ideologically close to the military and holds common beliefs on national security.
The list below shows the well-known breakaway factions and their relationships with the military, although many minor factions existed throughout the history:
After the 1971 war with India, the Pakistan Muslim League went into a political abyss after the death of Nurul Amin and during the first PPP government of the Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It made a strong comeback in response to the nationalisation program of Zulfikar Bhutto in the 1970s. Influential young activists, including Nawaz Sharif, Javed Hashmi, Zafar-ul-Haq and Shujaat Hussain, ascended as the leaders of the party and started their political career through the Muslim League.
The party became an integral part of the nine-party alliance, PNA, against the PPP and campaigned against the PPP in the 1977 general elections. The party campaigned on a right-wing platform and raised conservative slogans in the 1977 general elections. The party, including Sharif and Hussain, were a conglomerate of diverse views and had provided large capital for Muslim League's financial expenses. It was at that time the party was revived and joined the anti-Bhutto PNA with Pir Pagara, an influential Sindhi conservative figure, as its elected president.
After the martial law in 1977, the party reassessed itself; seeing the rise of powerful oligarch bloc, led by Zahoor Illahi who was the main PML leaders. After the 1984 referendum, President Zia-ul-Haq had become country's elected president. During the 1985 general election, a new PML(N) emerged on the country's political scene. The party had supported the presidency of Zia-ul-Haq and won his support to appoint Mohammad Khan Junejo to the office of Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif had won the favour and support of President Zia-ul-Haq and approved his appointment as Chief Minister of the Punjab Province in 1985.
Its modern history started in 1988 parliamentary elections when the Pakistan Muslim League, led by former prime minister Mohammed Khan Junejo, split into two factions: one was led by Fida Mohammad Khan and Nawaz Sharif the then chief minister of Punjab Province, and the other by Junejo (who later founded Pakistan Muslim League (F)). In 1988, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) was founded and established by Fida Mohammad Khan, an original Pakistan Movement activist, who became the party's founding president, whilst Nawaz Sharif became its first secretary-general. The party is not the original Muslim League, but is accepted as a continuing legal successor of the Muslim League.
At the time of 1988 elections, the PML was part of the eight-party Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA) which had contained the right-wing conservative mass as one entity against the left-wing circles, led by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The general elections in 1988 marked the emergence of the Pakistan Peoples Party's as the single largest party, with its election to 94 of 237 seats in the state parliament. The IDA occupied 55 seats, but an influential leader, Nawaz Sharif, chose to serve the Chief Minister of Punjab Province. With Benazir Bhutto elevating as the Prime Minister, the IDA nominated Abdul Wali Khan as a compromise candidate Opposition leader in the state parliament. Within 20 months, tales of bad governance and corruption plagued the Pakistan Peoples Party's government. Finally, in 1990, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan charged the PPP government with corruption and lack of governance and dismissed the National Assembly and the first Bhutto government.
The PML(N) was still part of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IDA) and participated, under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, in the 1990 general elections. The IDA competed against the leftist alliance, known as People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA), which had contained the Pakistan Peoples Party and the TeI. The elections resulted in the victory of IDA, with Nawaz Sharif becoming Prime Minister. Through IDA, the conservative forces under Sharif had a chance to form a national government for the first time in the history of Pakistan. With Sharif taking office, his ascendancy also marked a transition in the political culture of Pakistan – a power shift from control by the traditional feudal aristocracy to the growing class of modern and moderate entrepreneurs. For the first time, Sharif launched the privatisation and economic liberalisation policy measures, and Sharif's economics team actually implemented some of the serious economic liberalisation and privatisation measures previous governments had merely talked about.
Election results also showed liberals, the MQM, emerging as the third major party with 15 seats. For the first time in the history of the country, Sharif allowed foreign money exchange to be transacted through private money exchangers. While internationally acclaimed, his policies were condemned by the PPP. Benazir Bhutto mounted pressure on President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who dismissed the IDA government on 18 April 1993. The PML-N moved the Supreme Court and it restored its government and Sharif hold the office on 26 May. The country's armed forces and the military leadership negotiated with Nawaz Sharif to step down. Culminated at the resignation of Nawaz Sharif, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan was also removed from the Presidency.
The PML-N gained national prominence in the 1993 parliamentary elections and occupied 73 seats in the state parliament. The PML(N) asserted its role as opposition to the Pakistan Peoples Party. The PML(N) charged Benazir Bhutto with corruption, stagnation, and endangering the national security. The PPP also suffered with its internal faction, one of the faction led by Murtaza Bhutto. The controversial murder of Murtaza Bhutto by Sindh Police and the pressure on MQM further weakened Benazir Bhutto. The PML(N) and Sharif himself were shocked when they learned the news of Benazir Bhutto's dismissal. An ironic aspect of this dismissal was that it was prompted by the then-President Farooq Leghari, a trusted lieutenant of Benazir, who sent her to the Presidency as a safeguard for the PPP’s government after the office was vacated by Ghulam Ishaq Khan. During that movement, Nawaz Sharif travelled through the length and breadth of Pakistan. He also embarked on a train march from Lahore to Peshawar as part of his campaign to oust Benazir.
During this time, the party was among closest to the civil bureaucracy, and the Pakistan Armed Forces, had close ties and influence in Pakistan Armed Forces' appointments and their military strategies.
The Pakistan Muslim League (N) struck its remarkable, biggest, and most notable achievement in 1997 parliamentary elections, held on 3 February 1997. After securing the Two-thirds majority in the parliamentary, the only political party to have gained a two-thirds majority since the independence of the country in 1947, roughly fifty years past independence. During this time, it was the largest conservative party, with its members occupying 137 seats out of 207, roughly 66.2%. In 1997, the party secured its win with an overwhelming mandate, and absolutely light and slight opposition. On 18 February 1997, when Nawaz Sharif obtained a vote of confidence, the Pakistan Muslim League assumed the government of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif allowed Benazir Bhutto to hold the office of Leader of the Opposition, though the PML(N) had the control of the state parliament. The PML(N) government passed the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan to stabilizee its mandate and strengthen its position.
In 1998, the law and order situation came under the PML-N's control and economic recovery was also secured. A number of constitutional amendments were made to make the country a parliamentary democracy. In May 1998, the PML-N government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered six nuclear tests, in response to Indian nuclear tests. The tests were extremely popular and PML-N's image and prestige rose to a record level. However, in 1998, the PML-N government effectively dismissed general Jehangir Karamat (see Dismissal of General Jehangir Karamat) that ruined its public ratings, but marked a perception of the civilian control of the military. Its power politics and repeated dismissals of the military leadership soured its relations with Pakistan Armed Forces and its public ratings gradually went down.
Despite its heavy public mandate, serious disagreements appeared within the party. The 1999 coup d'état took place to end PML-N's government. Controversially, in 1999, the party was significantly divided, further affecting Nawaz Sharif's trial in military court. No massive protests were held by the party; its leaders remained silent and remained supportive towards the military action against Nawaz Sharif. In 2001, the party was further divided by factionalism. Dissenters formed the Pakistan Muslim League, later called Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) (or PML-Q), which became allies of then president Pervaiz Musharraf. In 2001, Muslim League (Nawaz) formally adopted the name of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), also known as PML(N).
As a result of the Kargil War with India, the PML(N) government had generated frustration within the party and a secret splinter group inside the party united on a one-point agenda with all the opposition parties in 1999 to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office. This resulted in a military coup d'état. The Supreme Court validated the coup and gave General Pervez Musharraf three years to hold general elections. After deposing Sharif's government, the party split into several groups and its size shrunk as many of its members decided to defect to the splinter political bloc. Many of its most influential members, sponsors, financiers, came to defect to the new group that was sympathetic to Pervez Musharraf. This splinter group emerged as the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), which registered itself as a political party with the name Election Commission. Sharif was removed from the Party's presidency and the position was handed over to Dr. Kalsoum Nawaz, wife of Sharif. With Sharif exiled to Saudi Arabia, the party's presidency was handed over to Javed Hashmi and the party began to reassert itself in the coming elections. The party campaigned all over the country and competed in the 2002 general elections for the state parliament. The election polls announced the victory of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the liberals, MQM, with PML(Q) retaining the majority in the state parliament and brutally defeating the PML(N).
During 2002 Pakistani general election, the PML-N performed poorly, only winning 9.4% of the popular vote and 14 out of 272 elected members, the worst defeat since its inception in 1988. Hashmi was removed from the party's presidency after his controversial remarks towards the country's armed forces. In an indirect party election, Shahbaz Sharif was elected as the party's new president; and the party's leadership was now based in London. In 2006, the party signed the cooperative declaration with its rival Pakistan Peoples Party to outline and promote a new democratic culture in the country. Known as the Charter of Democracy, the charter was signed by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in London and announced their opposition to Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz. In the 2008 general election, the party won urban votes and dominated the provisional assembly of Punjab Province. The party secured a total of 91 seats in the state parliament, just second to the Pakistan Peoples Party, which won 121 seats, and the parties agreed on forming a coalition government. The PML(N) successfully called for impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf and ousted Musharraf from the presidency and exiled him to United States in 2008. But the coalition could not run for too long when Nawaz Sharif announced to support and lead the Lawyers' Movement to restore the suspended famed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2008. In 2011, the PML-N established its branch in Kashmir Province to participate in Kashmir's general elections.
After returning to Pakistan, the PML (N) contested the 2008 general election, demanding a restoration of the judges sacked under the emergency rule placed by President Pervez Musharraf and removal of Musharraf as President. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Sharif announced that the PML (N) would boycott the polls, but after some time and conversations with the co-chairman of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz announced that the party would contest in the polls and began to rally in the Punjab areas. On 18 February 2008, after the polls were closed and the results had been announced, the PML-N gained 68 seats in the National Assembly, just behind the PPP. They announced that they would have discussions on forming a coalition with the PPP which would have half the seats in the 342 seat Parliament. In a press conference on 19 February, Nawaz called for President Pervez Musharraf to step down. Nawaz and Zardari agreed on forming a coalition, and Nawaz announced that he and his party gave the PPP the right to choose the next Prime Minister.
On 13 May 2008, the PML (N) ministers resigned from the government due to a disagreement related to the reinstatement of the judges. Nawaz said that the PML (N) would support the government without participating in it. Zardari, hoping to preserve the coalition, told Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to reject the resignations.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on 27 June 2008, won three and two by-election seats, respectively, to the national parliament. Polls were postponed for the sixth seat in Lahore due to Nawaz Sharif's eligibility contest. A court ruled he was ineligible due to an old conviction, amid a government appeal in the Supreme Court, which will hear the case on 30 June, thus postponing the vote in the constituency. The two parties also won 19 of 23 provincial assembly seats where by-elections were held. The results will not affect the 18 February general election results in which Benazir Bhutto's PPP won 123 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly and Sharif's party came second with 91, while Pervez Musharraf's party came a poor third with 54 seats. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) won eight provincial assembly seats, while the PPP won seven provincial seats. On 25 August 2008, Nawaz Sharif announced that Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui would be Pakistan Muslim League (N) nominee to replace Pervez Musharraf as President of Pakistan.
During its election campaign for the 2013 general elections, the party compete against its arch-rival PPP and another right-wing party, PTI. In an unofficial counting, the party has secured the qualified majority in the state parliament, the Punjab Assembly and Balochistan Assembly; it is yet the only party to have secured respectable seats and representation on provisional assemblies of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The leader of PMLN, Nawaz Sharif became for the third time Prime Minister of Pakistan for the first time in the history of the country.
The General Council Meeting (or Central Working Committee) served its major platform to elect presidents and secretaries while it is also responsible for promoting PML-N activities. The GCM's meetings are generally held in Jinnah Convention Centre in Islamabad.
The current President of Pakistan Muslim League (N) is Nawaz Sharif who was elected in 2011. The General Council Meeting raises funds, and coordinates campaign strategy while there are local committees every provinces and most large cities, counties and legislative districts, but they have far less money and influence than the national body. The Central Secretariat and the Parliament Lodges of Pakistan Parliament play important roles in recruiting strong state candidates. Nawaz sharif is accused of corruption and involved in smuggling heavy amount of money outside the country and recently has been nominated by Panama Papers to be involved in hiding the black money in offshore accounts and companies.
Pakistan Muslim League (N) includes the religious conservatives, social conservatives, neoconservatives, bioconservatives, environmental conservatism and most importantly, the national and fiscal conservatives. During its years, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) emphasised the role of free markets and individual achievement as the primary factors behind economic prosperity, deregulation of all segments of economic order, and strong base of capitalism. In 1991, the PML-N's government established the National Highway Authority followed by inaugurating the M2 Motorways in 1997.
The Pakistan Muslim League-N generally opposed the labour union managements and large scale worker's union. The Party believes in that "prosperous agriculture is the backbone of national prosperity and diversification of the rural economy by expanding non-farm rural employment is critical for the alleviation of poverty". During its federal government, the PML-N successfully privatised the major heavy industries under its Planned industrial development programme.
In 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency was established by PML-N's government and its Ministry of Environment was one of the most notable ministry to protect the national conservation and forestry in the country. In 1997, the environmental PSA were regularly announced paid by the government to enhance and promote the environmental awareness in public.
However, its environmental policies remained a subject of on-going controversies, often criticise for ignoring the health and environmental policies despite its party declaration. The PML-N's provincial government in Punjab Province came under intense media, opposition, and public anger after failing to counter the Dengue fever outbreak due to its lack of apathy and inadequate steps and seriousness to enforce environmental awareness and regulations. In recent, the prestige of PML-N's also suffered after the government's Health and Environment ministry failed to properly scanned the quality of medicines, resulting in major counterfeit and environmental crises that put party's environmental and health policies in great doubts.
The Pakistan Muslim League (N) takes credit for ordering and authorising the country's first nuclear tests (see Chagai-I and Chagai-II) amid international pressure. It is also responsible for establishing the Pakistan Antarctic Programme as part of its science and technology strategy. With its inverse force, Pakistan Peoples Party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) takes credit for its contribution to enhancing the nuclear deterrence, and the nuclear power expansion, first establishing the CHASNUPP-I, expansion as part of its nuclear policy.
The party has been long advocated for broader and stronger relations with United States, China, United Kingdom, European Union, Singapore, Malaysia, and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and India. In 1999, the party's government successfully signed the Lahore Declaration with India.
The Pakistan Muslim League-N remains sceptical about the country's role in war on terror, although it is firmly opposed to religious extremism and terrorism in all its manifestations. While it remains a strong supporter of the United States' financial and fiscal policies, but on the other hand, it remains undecided about the military operations on its western fronts to curb down militancy, with many PML-N's intellectuals regarding the War on terror as a campaign against Islam. During its previous tenure from 1997 to 1999, the PML(N) government took a series of measures to control terrorist groups by establishing the Anti Terrorism Courts. The PML-N's leadership remains an avid supporter of Indian-held Kashmir, and numerous times, it had made it clear that the party will "never compromise this long standing position on Kashmir dispute".
Since its inception, the party has been involved in major controversies some of which are listed below
PML-N's head Nawaz Sharif rise to power is attributed to funding and backing from ISI and military establishment. ex DG ISI Hameed Gul accepted that he formed Islami Jamhuri Itehad in order to counter the power of Pakistan People's Party.
An operation was launched by ISI in order to topple PPP's Benazir's Government and make Nawaz Sharif's government who was 'liked' by the establishment.
Nawaz Sharif during his tenure as prime minister (1990-1992), launched a military operation against his own allies in government, MQM for allegations against jinnahpur conspiracy. Later the ISPR denied any knowledge of jinnahpur conspiracy and maps, which were highly publicized in the media prior to operation launch. Thousands of MQM activists were killed, its leadership arrested and its head Altaf Hussain had move to exile in UK.
As prime minister, Nawaz Sharif again launched operation against MQM who were again in alliance in Sharif's government on accusation of assassinating Hakeem Said. An elected PMLN Sindh government in alliance with MQM was dismissed and governor rule was imposed. The operation started new blood shed era in Karachi and many party leaders of MQM were arrested. The PML-N government planned the assassination of Imran Farooq (MQM second in command at that time) but he was able to escape the country and arrived in UK to take political asylum. Fasih Jugu who was accused in assassination was tortured to death by the Law enforcement. The operation resulted is a major unrest in the city and violence and killings ensued. This was one of the prime reasons of the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif's government in 1999 through martial law.
In 1999, Nawaz Sharif was allegedly involved in hijacking plane of chief of army staff Pervez Musharraf when he was to land at Karachi airport and the control tower ordered the plane not to land in Pakistan but India instead. This led to military coup of 1999. Sharif was convicted by anti-terror court and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000. In 2010 The Supreme court of Pakistan overturned his conviction making him eligible to run for power again.
PMLN has been accused of corruption in flop economic schemes like yellow cab scheme, The National Debt Retirement Programme (NDRP), sasti roti scheme, nandipur project. More recently, an international newspaper published Panama papers naming Sharif's sons as among people who created offshore companies. Nawaz Sharif is accused of using corruption money to grow his assets in his business ventures and Ittefaq group.
The enquiry report of the Quetta Attack commission formed by Supreme Court of Pakistan to investigate the Quetta carnage of August 8, 2016 declared that Chaudhry Nisar, Pakistan's interior minister was responsible for security lapse and that he met leader of 3 banned organisations of Pakistan Ahmed Ludhianvi in the capital's red zone and conceded to his demands and has repeatedly and consistently resisted banning militant organisations of a specific sectarian bent. The opposition demanded resignation from Nisar
Nawaz Sharif and some of his family members were cited for money laundry and graft charges on 10th July 2017 by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court. The JIT presented evidence that the Sharif family had furnished fake documents to them, including the use of Calibri font in documents dated before public introduction of the said font. A ruling by the Supreme Court of Pakistan announced on 28th July 2017 disqualified party leader and then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office for life time. The Supreme Court's ruling that disqualified Nawaz Sharif has been criticized by legal experts far and wide due to it ousting the accused on a basis of a mere financial technicality whereas no corruption charges were proven due to lack of credible evidence presented by the accuser.