Maryam Nawaz Sharif (Urdu: مریم نواز شریف; born 28 October 1973) is a Pakistani politician, currently serving as the Chief Minister of Punjab, in office since 26 February 2024. She is the first woman to become Chief Minister of any province of Pakistan. She is the daughter of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and was initially involved in the family's philanthropic organisations. However, in 2012, she entered politics and was put in charge of the election campaign during the 2013 general elections. In 2013, she was appointed the Chairperson of the Prime Minister's Youth Programme. However, she resigned in 2014 after her appointment was challenged in the Lahore High Court.[3]

Maryam Nawaz
مریم نواز
19th Chief Minister of Punjab
Assumed office
26 February 2024
GovernorMuhammad Baligh Ur Rehman
Preceded byMohsin Raza Naqvi (caretaker)
Member of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab
Assumed office
23 February 2024
ConstituencyPP-159 Lahore-XV
Senior Vice President of Pakistan Muslim League (N)
Assumed office
3 January 2023
Chairwoman of the Prime Minister's Youth Programme
In office
22 November 2013 – 13 November 2014
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byLeila Khan
Personal details
Born
Maryam Nawaz Sharif

(1973-10-28) 28 October 1973 (age 50)[1]
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan[1]
Political partyPakistan Muslim League (N)
Spouse
(m. 1992)
Children3[2]
Parent(s)Nawaz Sharif (father)
Kalsoom Nawaz (mother)
RelativesSee Sharif Family
Alma materConvent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore
Lahore College for Women
University of Punjab

During 2024 Pakistani general election, she was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan (NA) and the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab for the first time, marking her parliamentary debut. She took oath as Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) thus relinquishing her seat for NA.[4]

Early life and education

Maryam was born on 28 October 1973[5][6][7] in Lahore, Pakistan,[1][8][9] to Nawaz Sharif and Kulsoom Butt.[10] She is a Punjabi Kashmiri.[11]

She received her education from the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore[2][12] completing her pre-nursery through 10th grade. Later, she pursued her FSC at Lahore College for Women in 1991.[13]

When she faced rejection from Kinnaird College due to academic underperformance, her father Nawaz Sharif, who was the chief minister of Punjab at the time, intervened by suspending the principal. However, a strike organized by the college students and staff led to the principal being reinstated.[14] Maryam later attempted to become a doctor,[10] hence she enrolled in King Edward Medical College (KEMU) in the late 1980s; however, after a controversy over illegal admission arose, she had to leave the college without completing her degree.[15][16] A senior Pakistan People's Party official claimed that Maryam's average grades and admission test scores were insufficient for her admission to the KEMU in the late 1980s, saying that "Clearly, she did not meet the admission criteria for KEMC based on merit, Initially, she was admitted to the Army Medical College in Rawalpindi and was then transferred to KEMC within a month, which she eventually left without completing her degree."[17] Her attempt to become a doctor brought her some negative attention.[16][10]

She was then enrolled at Fatima Jinnah Medical University in Lahore, but did not complete her medical education, and dropped out in 1992[13] after getting married to Safdar Awan[18] at the age of 19.[2] After marriage, she assumed her husband's surname as Maryam Safdar.[19] Safdar was serving as captain in the Pakistan Army at that time[20] and was the security officer of Nawaz Sharif during the latter's tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan.[2] She has three children with Safdar Awan:[2] One son, Junaid, and two daughters, Mahnoor and Mehr-un-Nisa.[21]

She completed undergraduate studies from the University of the Punjab, from where she received a master's degree in English Literature[13][1] in literature.[2] In 2012, she was doing her PhD degree on post-9/11 radicalization in Pakistan and was described as being fond of postcolonial writers such as Chinua Achebe and also an admirer of the poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz.[22] Reportedly, she did her PhD at the University of Cambridge.[17]

In 2014, her degrees of Master in English Literature and PhD in Political Science were questioned by the Lahore High Court.[23][3] It was unclear whether her PhD degree was earned or honorary.[24] In 2018, she only declared her master's degree in English Literature while submitting records to the Election Commission of Pakistan.[25]

She is the eldest among four siblings, and she also has a sister named Asma.[26]

Political career

Maryam was detained for the first time on October 12, 1999, following the 1999 Pakistani coup d'état led by Gen Pervez Musharraf, which ousted her father, then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Arrested by female members of the Pakistan Army Corps of Military Police, she along with her mother Kulsoom Nawaz and other female members of the Sharif family was promptly transferred to her residence where they were placed under house arrest, in contrast to her father, who was taken to Adiala Jail. In November 1999, she, along with other female members of the Sharif family, was granted release on "humanitarian grounds" at the request of a Arab ruler.[26] Maryam's first notable appearance was in a BBC interview, where she recounted her father's imprisonment by General Pervez Musharraf and appealed for public support for her father Nawaz.[27] She along with her mother, gained prominence during this period. After being released from a four-month house arrest, she found herself shuttling between prisons, as she listened to the charges of corruption, terrorism, and tax evasion against her father. Later, she, along with 22 members of the Sharif family, was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia.[22][28] During her long exile, she prioritized her role in raising her children during[13] and also became fluent in Arabic[22]

Maryam's father Nawaz Sharif ended his exile and returned to Pakistan in 2007 prior to the 2008 Pakistani general election in which her father's party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N), emerged as one of the two largest parties.[22] During PML-N's government in Punjab, criticisms were leveled against the party for being perceived as soft on terrorism and sectarian groups, and for its inability to improve Punjab's economy. However, Maryam was noted for advocating minority rights and opposing political alliances with banned militant outfits.[22] Maryam expressed regret over the inability of her father's party, PML-N, and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to maintain their short-lived coalition following the election.[22] However Maryam largely refrained from active involvement in politics.[13]

Prior to entering politics, she remained involved in the family's philanthropic organisation[22][29] and served as the chairperson of Sharif Trust, Sharif Medical City, and Sharif Education Institutes.[30] A source close to the Sharif family within the PML-N confirmed saying that "Initially, Nawaz Sharif had wanted Hussain Nawaz [Maryam's brother] to participate in politics but seeing his disinterest, he decided that Maryam should carry forward his political legacy and started mentoring her".[13]

In November 2011, Nawaz Sharif granted her permission to enter politics after she expressed her intention to do so. In 2012, Maryam collaborated with PML-N leaders to prepare the Punjab Women Empowerment Package, initiated by her uncle Shehbaz Sharif, then chief minister of Punjab, in addition to playing a role in the implementation of the women-only Pink Bus scheme in Punjab during the same year. Reportedly, Maryam also contributed to various initiatives aimed at women's welfare in Punjab.[31] During her political debut, she began visiting educational institutes to give speeches on education and women's rights.[22]

In 2012, when Nawaz Sharif suspended Maryam's husband, Safdar, from the PML-N due to suspicions of Safdar's involvement in planning to establish his own separate party. Maryam publicly supported her father's decision and criticized her husband's actions.[32][15] The same year, she tweeted "I'm only assisting Nawaz Sharif to monitor their cyber cell. No intentions of getting into electoral or practical politics".[33]

She largely remained out of the spotlight till 2013 when she was put in charge of Nawaz Sharif's successful election campaign during the 2013 Pakistani general election[34][35] where she reportedly played a prominent role.[29][36] She is credited for her efforts in galvanizing public sentiment through social media prior to and after the 2013 election.[13] Maryam was positioned by the PML-N as a counterbalance to the youth following enjoyed by PTI's Imran Khan.[35] At one point, she was seen distributing laptops to students on behalf of the Punjab government, despite holding no public office either in the Punjab or in the federal government.[37][38]

After her father assumed power and became prime minister, she was appointed the chairperson of the Prime Minister's Youth Programme in November 2013.[30] However, her appointment was called into question by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which termed the appointment a case of nepotism and moved the Lahore High Court in October 2014. The PTI also accused her of misusing government funds for her own image-building. Questions were also raised regarding her academic credentials, including her degrees in M.A. (English Literature) and Ph.D. in Political Science.[3] On 12 November 2014, the Lahore High Court ordered the federal government to remove her.[23] The next day, Maryam resigned from the chairpersonship.[23][39][3]

Afterwards, Maryam established a Strategic Media Communications Cell within the Prime Minister’s Office[27] and also assumed control of PML-N social media to address the challenges posed by PTI.[35] In 2016, she garnered significant media attention when the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, underwent open-heart surgery in the UK. Rather than accompanying her father to the UK, Maryam remained in Prime Minister House and assumed responsibility for media management. She provided updates on her father's medical condition to the press through her Twitter account. However her permanent residence in the Prime Minister House as a "dependent" of the prime minister also raised questions. Additionally, her alleged involvement with the strategic media cell had been a subject of media discourse.[40][38] During Nawaz Sharif's absence from the country, she was proved to be an effective leader of PML-N.[13]

In 2016, Maryam was suspected of being involved in the leak of a story to Dawn, later dubbed as "Dawn leaks" regarding a confrontation between Pakistan's civilian government and military officials during a top-secret national security meeting regarding countering militancy.[27][38][41] After the publication of the news story, both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif denied the events and termed the article as fabricated. Sharif ordered action against those responsible for the publication of what he called a "fabricated" story.[42][43] Later, the government held Pervez Rasheed, the Information Minister, responsible for the leak and he was subsequently made to resign from his position.[44] After an inquiry, Maryam was identified among the 12 individuals who were found to be in contact with Cyril Almeida, the author of the news story. However, Nawaz Sharif only dismissed Fatemi and Rao Tehseen for their alleged involvement in 'Dawn leaks,' stating that a notification regarding this matter would be issued soon.[45] Subsequently, the ISPR tweeted saying, "Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected."[46][47] In an apparent reference to Maryam's alleged involvement in the Dawn Leaks, then federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan remarked that the government should not have formed two committees on the issue if its intention was to shield someone. He emphasized that if the government sought to conceal information, it would not have established such committees.[41] In 2018, Maryam confirmed that the Dawn leaks news was accurate and grounded in facts[48] and expressed regret over the Nawaz Sharif's decision to sack Pervaiz Rasheed during the 'Dawn Leaks' controversy.[49] It is believed efforts were made by Nisar Ali Khan to implicate Maryam in the Dawn Leaks controversy, but General Bajwa refrained from mentioning her name despite Nisar Ali Khan's insistence.[50] "Dawn leak" inevitably altered Pakistan's political landscape leading to a confrontation between the country's civil and powerful military leadership.[51] Some within and outside the PML-N attribute party's misfortunes, since the Dawn Leaks controversy emerged, directly to Maryam's rise to prominence.[52]

In 2017, she faced accusations of supporting blasphemous content after a group of dissenting bloggers was abducted by Pakistani intelligence agencies. After release of bloggers, they disclosed that they had resisted giving a forced confession. The confession they were pressured to make implicated Maryam in allegedly operating a blasphemous Facebook page called ‘Bhensa’ under the direction of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).[27]

Following Dawn Leaks controversy, during an interview on Geo News program Jirga with Saleem Safi, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan a senior leader of PML-N and then federal interior minister criticized the comparisons drawn between former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Maryam. On a number of occasions Khan dubbed Maryam as a kid, stated that he does not view Maryam as a leader and suggested that she must demonstrate her capabilities through active participation in real politics.[53][54] Even those within party who didn't object to the Maryam's anti-establishment stance, were seen discontent with how Maryam had been given control of the party by her father.[38] As a result, the division between the Shehbaz Sharif faction and the Maryam Nawaz faction within the party became evident to all,[38] especially given the close association of both Shehbaz and Nisar Ali Khan.[53] This discontent led to other party veterans breaking ranks, including former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who stated that he had "resigned from the party office within an hour of the announcement" of Maryam's promotion to the positions of senior vice president and chief organizer.[38][55] and Miftah Ismail, who quit PML-N following his removal from his position as federal finance minister by Maryam.[56] However the emergence of Maryam as a prominent figure within the PML-N dealt a significant blow to her cousin, Hamza Shehbaz, who had been previously positioned as the natural successor to the Sharif brothers.[38]

In 2018, Nisar Ali Khan distanced himself from the PML-N, citing his inability to work under Maryam's command. He stated he wouldn't serve under any junior leader, particularly Maryam, and expressed concerns over the party's management. Furthermore, he warned of his intention to make the Dawn Leaks report public.[57]

In March 2017, Maryam was included in the BBC's 100 Women list, recognizing influential women worldwide, notably as the first daughter in her country.[29][36] In December 2017, she was featured on The New York Times list of 11 Powerful Women Around the World for the year 2017.[58]

She became involved in electoral politics in 2017 following her father Nawaz Sharif's disqualification from holding the prime ministership and his conviction by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in connection with the Panama Papers case. Maryam campaigned for her mother, Kulsoom Nawaz, during the by-elections in Constituency NA-120.[59][6] Although her mother won the seat, the victory margin notably decreased.[38] There was significant discussion surrounding Maryam's role in the election campaign. Many observers interpreted her involvement in the campaign as a significant step in her formal entry into the succession and party leadership race.[60] After Nawaz Sharif's removal, Maryam was regarded as the party's anti-establishment figurehead.[38]

Following her father's ouster from office, she was also affected by judicial activism, institutional favoritism, and partisan lobbying.[51] In June 2018, when she was allocated a PML-N ticket to contest the 2018 general election from Constituency NA-127 (Lahore-V) and PP-173,[61] she was sentenced to 7 years in jail on corruption charges in the Avenfield case filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), while her father Nawaz Sharif received a 10-year sentence in a 9-month-long trial. She received a 7-year sentence for abetment after being found "instrumental in concealing her father's properties," which also included 1 year for non-cooperation with the NAB. According to the verdict, she "aided, assisted, abetted, attempted and acted in conspiracy with her father".[62]

As a result, she was disqualified from politics for 10 years following which PML-N nominated Ali Pervaiz and Malik Irfan Shafi Khokhar to contest the 2018 elections in constituency NA-127 and PP-173, respectively.[63][64]

Following Maryam's appeal against her conviction in the Islamabad High Court,[35] she and her father were released from Adiala jail on 19 September 2018 after the Islamabad High Court granted them bail and suspended their respective prison terms in the Avenfield corruption case.[65]

As Maryam gained prominence, she increasingly became the target of backlash and misogynistic remarks. Much of the misogynistic remarks came from the PTI leader Imran Khan,[27][66] but social media also remained buzzed with discussions about her age, luxury clothing and accessories. In a July 2019 interview with Voice of America , she acknowledged her political journey was more challenging than expected and admitted facing resistance from within her father's party, PML-N. Dawn wrote PML-N stalwarts were not particularly impressed by how rapidly she ascended through the ranks, especially in a party largely dominated by men and with minimal women in leadership positions.[38] Throughout Imran Khan's four-year administration, Maryam continued to faced threats and intimidation from the government. On one occasion, her father Nawaz Sharif cautioned that if any harm befell his daughter, individuals including PM Imran Khan, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, would bear responsibility.[27]

However, she faced another arrest by the NAB Lahore on 8 August 2019, this time in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills corruption case. She was taken into custody at Kot Lakhpat Jail where she was on her weekly visit to meet her father, Nawaz Sharif.[67][68] She then approached the Lahore High Court[35] which on 6 November 2019, granted her bail and ordered to release her.[69][70]

On 19 November, her father Nawaz Sharif departed for the United Kingdom just 20 days after being released on bail.[71] PML-N leaders emphasized that Nawaz Sharif had no plans to seek exile.[72] Nevertheless, he opted for a self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom for four years and returned to Pakistan in October 2023.[73]

Maryam became increasingly involved in politics during her father's four-year self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom. In 2019, she was appointed as vice president of PML-N.[35] She then led significant anti-government rallies throughout the country, fiercely denouncing Imran Khan, the PTI, as well the military and judiciary for her father's ousting and allegedly facilitating the rise of the then-PTI chairman to power.[35]

In 2020, during an interview with BBC Urdu, Maryam hinted at the potential for dialogue between her party and the then army leadership, whom her father, Nawaz Sharif, has accused of orchestrating his removal as prime minister. However, she suggested that such discussions would only take place after the PTI government had been removed from power.[74]

On 19 October 2020, Maryam, along with the senior leadership of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and numerous workers, entered the hallway in Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi to offer fateha. After the fateha concluded, PML-N workers began chanting slogans in support of Maryam. Her husband Safdar also started chanting slogans, which went against the protocol of the mausoleum. Many social media users regarded the incident as disrespectful and expressed their anger towards Safdar and Maryam.[75][76] Later that night, personnel from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Sindh Rangers raided the hotel room where Maryam and her husband Safdar were staying, purportedly due to accusations of "violating the sanctity of Mazar-e-Quaid. Following Safdar's arrest, there were allegations that the Inspector General of Sindh Police was also kidnapped and coerced by officials of the ISI and Sindh Rangers into registering the First Information Report (FIR) against Maryam, and her husband Safdar for the violating the sanctity of Mazar-e-Quaid. Maryam also claimed that the Sindh police chief was forcibly taken to the ISI sector commander's office and pressured to sign her arrest warrants,[77] however, when the IG Police showed reluctance, it was decided that the arrest would be conducted by the Sinh Rangers.[78] Then Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also took notice of the incident and instructed the Karachi Corps Commander to conduct an immediate inquiry.[79]

On 29 September 2022, soon after Maryam's uncle Shehbaz Sharif came into power, the Islamabad High Court overturned her corruption conviction and refused to pursue many of the cases against her relatives, and she then became eligible to contest elections again.[80] However, she seemed to step back as the Pakistan Democratic Movement, a coalition of political parties, gained momentum, and her uncle Shehbaz Sharif emerged as the opposition's candidate for the next prime minister.[35]

On 3 January 2023, Maryam was appointed as senior vice president of the PML-N, making her one of the PML-N’s senior-most leaders. The decision was approved by the Shehbaz Sharif, who was also the party's president. She was also appointed as the "Chief Organizer" of the party with the mandate to restructuring and reorganizing the party at all levels.[81] Numerous senior leaders within the PML-N expressed regret and displeasure over the lack of consultation preceding Maryam's appointment, which positioned her as the second most senior figure in the party, following her uncle Shehbaz.[82] A leader from the PML-N described Maryam's rise within the party as a direct indication from Nawaz Sharif to the Shehbaz that she, rather than Shehbaz, would be his successor. He further stated that any senior leader who dared to challenge her authority would face a fate similar to that of Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan who gradually withdrew from politics after 2018 general election. Some sources suggested that Nisar Ali Khan discontent stemmed from the increasing prominence given to Maryam within the party hierarchy.[83]

After it was revealed that Nawaz Sharif is returning to Pakistan in October after ending his four-year self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom,[73] Maryam became active again rallying support and emphasizing Nawaz Sharif's plans to revive the economy that had suffered under the PTI's rule.[35] She began mobilizing party workers ahead of his father's return saying that "It will not be the return of an individual to the country. There will be the return of prosperity and hope for the country."[84]

In March 2023, she called for the court martial of former DG ISI Faiz Hameed, asserting that he should be held accountable for playing an unconstitutional role. She alleged that Faiz Hameed played a part in the downfall of the Nawaz Sharif government in 2017 and supported the Imran Khan government for four years.[85] She also claimed that Hameed confessed to his role and emphasized that it was time for institutions to take action against him.[86] She also criticized Saqib Nisar, who served as Chief Justice of Pakistan during Nawaz Sharif's ouster, accusing him of "facilitating" Imran Khan during his tenure as the country's prime minister, and called him as a "liar".[87] Following Maryam's criticism, an audio leak surfaced in which Saqib Nisar was allegedly heard using derogatory language against Maryam[88] to which Saqib Nisar claimed that his WhatsApp had been hacked.[89] It was noted that during the period from 2018 to 2020, then Chief Justice Saqib Nisar prioritized every case filed against Maryam and her father Nawaz Sharif.[51]

Parliamentary debut

In the 2024 Pakistani general election, she was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan representing Constituency NA-119 Lahore-III and to the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, representing Constituency PP-159 Lahore-XV as a PML-N candidate.[90] This was her first time contesting in the general elections.[35] For the national assembly seat, she secured 83,855 votes and defeated PTI-backed candidate Shehzad Farooq, who received 68,376.[91] Whereas for the provincial assembly seat, she secured 23,598 votes, with PTI-backed candidate Mehar Sharafat Ali receiving 21,491 votes,[92][93] narrowly defeating him.[94] PTI claimed that she was defeated from constituency Lahore’s PP-159 by Mehar Sharafat Ali.[95] She became the sixth member of the Sharif family to be elected to parliament.[94]

Following the election, Maryam Nawaz was nominated by the PML-N as its candidate for Chief Minister in Punjab Province.[96] Consequently, she relinquishes her seat in NA-119 and retaining her seat in PP-159 to assume the role of Punjab's chief minister.[97]

On 18 February 2024, it was reported that she had already begun fulfilling the duties of chief minister, receiving briefings from the Punjab chief secretary and Inspector General of Police at her residence. Additionally, she was provided with security measures typical of the chief minister's protocol, including two bulletproof cars, four police squad vehicles, a traffic wardens' pilot, and a signal jammer vehicle.[98] On 23 February 2024, she was sworn in as a member of the Punjab Assembly for the first time, marking her parliamentary debut.[99]

Chief ministership (2024-present)

On 25 February 2024, she submitted her nomination papers for the office of Punjab Chief Minister, competing against PTI-backed Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan.[100] The next day, she was elected unopposed as the 19th Chief Minister of Punjab after securing 220 votes. This occurred after PTI decided to boycott the elections following Rana Aftab's request to address the House was denied by the speaker, Malik Ahmad Khan. As a result, 103 MPs of PTI walked out in protest and Rana Aftab did not receive any votes.[101] Later the same day, she took the oath as Punjab Chief Minister, thus becoming Pakistan's first-ever female chief minister, and also becoming the fourth member of the Sharif family to be elected to the position.[94]

In her maiden speech on the floor, she adopted a conciliatory tone towards the opposition, stating, "the doors of my chamber and heart will always remain open for them as they are for my party members." She mentioned receiving guidance from Nawaz Sharif since her nomination as Punjab CM and emphasized her vision to transform Punjab into an 'economic hub', with a focus on providing employment, education, and healthcare.[94][101]

PTI called Maryam "fake Chief Minister" and labeled the election of Maryam as chief minister a "stolen mandate".[102] They announced to convene a "parallel" Punjab Assembly session to elect their own chief minister, asserting that they hold the majority.[95]

Public image

Shortly after her appointment as Chief Minister, she visited the Punjab Safe Cities Authority headquarters. During this visit, Maryam adjusted the scarf of a female police officer that had slipped from her head. The incident sparked a debate on social media. Some individuals praised Maryam’s actions, interpreting them as a display of humility and empathy, and a sign of respect towards the police officer. However, some argued that her intervention could be perceived as an intrusion into the personal space of the police officer.[103][104][105][106]

She was regarded as "heir apparent" of Nawaz Sharif[107][108][109] and the "presumed future leader" of the PML-N.[15][22]

Dawn wrote she's "known for her biting rhetoric and ability to both pull and rouse a crowd" saying that she has established herself in a political arena largely dominated by men.[35]

In a 2012 interview, Maryam expressed her empathy for the children of Benazir Bhutto and recalled meeting Benazir Bhutto only once, on 14 May 2006 in London, when her father Nawaz and Benazir signed the Charter of Democracy, aimed at ending Musharraf rule in Pakistan. Describing their meeting, Maryam stated that they spoke candidly for three hours, and noted that the Sharif family was deeply saddened by Benazir's assassination in December 2007, shedding tears upon hearing the news of her assassination.[22]

Panama Papers case

On 3 April 2016, the Panama Papers were leaked and Maryam was named in it along with her two brothers, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz. According to records uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Maryam was described as the owner of the British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, and allegedly the owner of the properties in the United Kingdom owned jointly by her brothers.[110][111][112] In response, Maryam denied owning any company or property outside Pakistan and said, "My brother has made me a trustee in one of his corporations which only entitles me to distribute assets to my brother Hussain's family/children if needed".[113]

In September 2016, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan asking for action against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his relatives for their alleged involvement in the Panama Papers scandal.[114] In January 2017, Maryam submitted her statement to the Supreme Court saying she has not been dependent on her father since her marriage in 1992.[18] On 16 February 2017, Maryam's lawyer admitted before the Supreme Court that Maryam owned four flats in London for at least six months in 2006.[115] On 20 April, the Supreme Court announced a split verdict and ordered the formation of the joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate the Sharif family's assets for irregularities.[116] On 10 July, the JIT submitted its report to the Supreme Court in which it maintained that the Sharif family has assets beyond known sources of income.[117] In its report, the JIT noted that Maryam misled the Supreme Court by presenting fake documents and stated that the Calibri font used on the declaration dated 2006 produced by Maryam was not commercially available before 31 January 2007.[118] The scandal was widely referred to as Fontgate.[119]

The Supreme Court announced its decision on 28 July 2017 and disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding public office as he had been dishonest in not disclosing his employment in the Dubai-based Capital FZE company in his nomination papers.[120] The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference against Sharif and his relatives against corruption charges.[121][122][123][124]

In September 2017, the NAB filed three corruption references against Nawaz Sharif and his three children including Maryam in compliance with the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.[125] In October, an accountability court indicted Maryam, Nawaz Sharif, and Maryam's husband in the Avenfield reference—one of three corruption references filed by the NAB—which pertains to the ownership of the Sharif family's four flats at Avenfield, an apartment on Park Lane in London.[126] After conducting 107 hearings of the Avenfield case since September 2017, the accountability court reserved its verdict in the case on 3 July 2018.[127]

On 6 July 2018, she was sentenced to seven years in jail and a fine of two million pounds by the NAB on corruption charges in the Avenfield reference case. She was given seven years for abetment and one year for non-cooperation with the NAB. Both sentences will run concurrently.[62] As a result, she was disqualified from contesting in elections for 10 years.[64] The court held that the trust deeds presented by Maryam before the apex court were fake and had been tampered with.[128] Her father, Nawaz Sharif, and her husband were also sentenced to ten years and one year in prison, respectively.[129][130] The court also ordered the seizure of the Avenfield flats of the Sharif family.[131]

The next day, Maryam announced that she would return to Pakistan on 13 July to file an appeal against the decision.[132] The same day, the NAB announced their intention to arrest her and Nawaz Sharif upon their arrival in Pakistan[133] and obtained the required arrest warrant.[134] She, along with Nawaz Sharif, was taken into custody by the NAB on 13 July upon their arrival at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport and were airlifted to Rawalpindi's Adiala jail.[135] On 26 July, she challenged her sentence in the Islamabad High Court and filed a petition for bail.[136] The next day, the Islamabad High Court rejected her request for release on bail and adjourned the hearing until the end of the 2018 Pakistani general election.[137] During her time in detention, she spent significant amounts of time reading books.[138]

On 21 August 2018, the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan placed her on the Exit Control List in order to prevent her from leaving Pakistan.[139] On 11 September, her mother, Kulsoom Nawaz, died in London. Maryam along with her father and husband were released from Adiala jail on parole. They were flown to Lahore to attend the her mother's funeral.[140][141] Reportedly, Maryam and her father initially refused to be released on parole.[142][143] The funeral of Kulsoom Nawaz was held on 14 September 2018.[144] On 17 September, Maryam, together with her father and husband, was moved to Adiala jail.[145]

On 19 September 2018, the Islamabad High Court announced its verdict on the bail petition and suspended the prison sentences against Maryam, her father, and her husband, and ordered their release on bail. The court ordered them to pay Rs 500,000 each as surety bonds before their release. They were released from Adiala jail the same day and were flown to Lahore.[146][147]

Acquittal in corruption case

For assisting and aiding her father in the purchase of London flats that were acquired via dishonest means, Maryam had been given a seven-year prison sentence in July 2018. Safdar had also received a one-year sentence. Despite receiving a 10-year prison term for himself, Nawaz Sharif was granted bail in 2019[148] so he could travel to the United Kingdom for medical care.

Maryam Nawaz, who was also granted bail in 2019, appealed the accountability court's 2018 decision before the Islamabad High Court in October of last year.

Soon after Maryam's uncle Shehbaz Sharif came into power in 2022 as Prime Minister after a vote of no confidence against Imran Khan, changes were made to the senior leadership of the National Accountability Bureau, and under questionable circumstances, a corruption conviction against Maryam and her husband was overturned by an Islamabad High Court on 29 September 2022 with no additional information being given.[80] This was around the same time several corruption cases against the Sharif family were closed, including those on Shehbaz Sharif's son Hamza Shehbaz and Shehbaz Sharif himself.[149][150]

Personal wealth

In 2011 on a TV show with Pakistani anchor Sana Bucha, Maryam said she owned no properties in central London let alone in Pakistan.[151] It was later revealed in 2017 by a Joint Investigation Team that "she was the beneficiary of the London flats and she purposely never declared the ownership of these overseas properties, submitted fake documents, and misled the Supreme Court of Pakistan".[152] Her conviction was overturned on 29 September 2022 related to the purchase of apartments in London. The two-judge panel of the Islamabad High Court dismissed prosecution's case against her.[153]

In 2018 in her affidavit to the Election Commission of Pakistan, Maryam declared her assets to be worth Rs. 845 million (US$2.9 million).[154] She owns 1,506 Kanals (188 acres) of agricultural land and has invested millions into companies.[155]

Audio leaks

Throughout the years, multiple audios of Maryam Nawaz have been leaked.[156]

In 2021, an audio clip was leaked featuring phone conversations between Maryam and then Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, where she appeared to be instructing the denial of advertisements to specific TV channels. Maryam later confirmed the authenticity of the audio clip but defended her actions, stating that she was referring to PML-N advertisements.[38]

In September 2022, an audio was leaked where her uncle, Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, was heard speaking to an unidentified man. In the audio the man told Shehbaz,[157] that Maryam was asking for a power plant from India to be imported for her son-in-law's business. Shehbaz Sharif then told the man about the issues of importing a plant from India because it would be used against his government by the former Prime Minister Imran Khan.[158]

In March 2023, an audio recording purportedly featuring Maryam Nawaz was leaked where she was suggesting to her uncle, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to portray the murder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf worker Ali Bilal as a car accident done by his party colleagues.[159]

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Preceded by Chief Minister of Punjab
28 February 2024 – present
Incumbent