Given Nawaz Sharif’s close association with Zia (he served as finance minister and the Chief Minister of Punjab under him) his party has a strong religious orientation and ascribes to a conservative center-right ideology. The party’s manifesto contains the key principles of the Objectives Resolution, “Sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust. In Pakistan, the state shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people” as its guiding principles. Additionally, the PML-N has close ideological and political ties with Islamic parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (which was its coalition partner as part of the IJI) and the Markazi Jamait-e-Ahle Hadith.
During its first term in office (1990-93), the Nawaz Sharifs government made changes in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws in 1992 by removing the option of “life sentence” from Section 295-C for those convicted of using “derogatory terms against Prophet Mohammed.” As a result, those convicted of blasphemy were given a mandatory death sentence. Sharif’s PML-N came to power again in February 1997, winning a resounding two-thirds majority in the national assembly (with 137 seats).
In May 1998, Sharif tried to implement Sharia Law through the 15th amendment to the constitution, which proposed the creation of an Islamic order in Pakistan based on the Quran and the Sunnah. Sharif was overthrown by a military coup carried out by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 before the bill could be implemented. He subsequently went into exile in Saudi Arabia while his party contested the 2002 elections held under Musharraf it performed poorly, garnering only 14 out of 272 seats. Sharif returned from exile in August 2007 and contested the elections in February 2008 in which the PML-N won the second largest number of seats (68) in the national assembly. The PML-N joined the governing PPP led coalition but resigned from the government in May 2008 due to the government’s failure to reinstate judges sacked by Musharraf.
The PML-N has frequently portrayed itself as the true “descendent” of Jinnah’s Muslim League and the only party which safeguards Pakistan’s nationalist (Islamic) ideology. According to its manifesto the PML-N represents the “continuing flow of Muslims’ historic struggle and role in South Asia that is spread over several centuries... After winning independence, All-India Muslim League became Pakistan Muslim League.” Nawaz Sharif has spoken out in favor of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and against instituting any changes in them. His party has also taken a strong stance against US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Continue Reading: Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q)