Maryam Nawaz becomes Pakistan’s first woman provincial chief minister

Maryam Nawaz

Lahore: Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, made history on Monday by becoming the first woman to lead a province in Pakistan. She was elected as the chief minister of Punjab, the country’s most populous and politically significant province, with a landslide victory in the provincial assembly.

A historic moment for women

Maryam, who is the senior vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, described her election as an “honor” for every woman in the country. She said she was happy to follow in the footsteps of her father, who served as the chief minister of Punjab three times before becoming the prime minister.

“My father trained me how to run the office,” Maryam said in her maiden speech at the provincial legislature. “Today, every woman of the province is proud to see a woman chief minister,” she added, expressing her hope that the tradition of female leadership would continue in the future.

Maryam, who is 50 years old, is considered the political heir of Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted from power in 2017 by the Supreme Court over corruption charges. She has been actively involved in the party’s affairs and campaigns since 2013 and has faced several legal challenges and imprisonment herself.

A walkout by the opposition

Maryam’s election was marred by a boycott and a walkout by the lawmakers of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a religious party that was backed by former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The opposition accused Maryam of being a “Queen of Mandate Thieves”, alleging that she had lost her seat in the February 8 general election by over 800 votes and that the PML-N had rigged over 100 seats in the Punjab Assembly.

The opposition also claimed that Maryam was ineligible to hold public office due to her involvement in the Panama Papers scandal, which exposed the offshore wealth of her family and other global elites. However, the PML-N denied the allegations and maintained that Maryam was innocent and qualified.

Maryam received 220 votes out of 327 in the provincial assembly, while her rival, Rana Aftab of the SIC, received zero votes. The newly-elected Speaker of the assembly, Malik Ahmad Khan, announced the results and declared Maryam as the chief minister.

Maryam criticized the opposition for boycotting the session and disrupting the democratic process. She said she was upset that the “respectable members” of the opposition were not present and that she would have been happy if they had protested during her speech. She said that despite the difficulties and challenges, her party and its supporters had never given up.

A Surprise Nomination by Nawaz Sharif

Maryam’s election came as a surprise to many, as her father, Nawaz Sharif, had earlier nominated his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, as the PML-N’s candidate for the prime ministerial post. Shehbaz, who is 72 years old, had served as the chief minister of Punjab four times and was widely expected to retain the position.

However, Nawaz Sharif, who is currently living in exile in London, changed his mind and decided to appoint Maryam as the chief minister of Punjab, while Shehbaz would become the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. The decision was reportedly taken to groom Maryam for the future leadership of the party and the country.

Maryam Nawaz

The PML-N emerged as the largest party in the Punjab Assembly in the February 8 general election, winning 137 seats out of 297. The PTI, which was the ruling party at the center, came second with 113 seats, while the SIC won 10 seats. The PML-N also secured the support of 20 independent candidates, who joined the party after the election.