ISLAMABAD - Born in 1951, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif became the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is the current president of the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

He entered the national political when he became the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after Nawaz was found guilty in 2017 on charges of concealing assets related to the Panama Papers revelations. Previously, he has served as the Chief Minister of Punjab three times in his political career, making him the longest-serving Chief Minister of Punjab.

Shehbaz is the younger brother of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and thrice-elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He previously held the post of Punjab chief minister from 1997-1999, before former military ruler Pervez Musharraf exiled the Sharif brothers to Saudi Arabia, and then again from 2008-2013 and then from 2013-2018. Most recently, he was the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly during the PTI’s tenure.

Shehbaz liked to call himself Khadim-i-Aala (chief servant) rather than chief minister. Shehbaz was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan in 1990. Shehbaz is considered a strong and determined individual as well as a competent administrator. A three-time chief minister, he takes pride in the construction and development work that he has done in various administrations and is also very proud of Lahore’s development. The Metro Bus projects in Punjab are frequently touted as his biggest achievements.

Despite his brother’s troubles in the recent and distant past, Shehbaz remained loyal to Nawaz. Despite his loyalty to Nawaz whose troubles have been credited to ‘a hostile establishment’, Shehbaz appears soft when it comes to the civil-military relations compared to the more hardline stance taken by his brother.

Shehbaz Sharif, the new prime minister, has a reputation as an effective administrator more than as a politician. Shehbaz, unlike Nawaz, enjoys amicable relations with the military, which traditionally controls foreign and defence policy in the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people.

Shehbaz worked closely with China on Beijing-funded projects. He believes that good relations with the United States were critical for Pakistan for better or for worse, in stark contrast to Imran Khan’s recently antagonistic relationship with Washington. As a prime minister, Shehbaz faces immediate challenges, not least Pakistan’s crumbling economy, which has been hit by high inflation, a tumbling local currency and rapidly declining foreign exchange reserves.

| As Punjab chief executive, PML-N president is known for his administrative skills and an advocate of good

civil-military relations | Crumbling economy, tumbling local currency and declining foreign exchange reserves are major challenges to new PM

As chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif planned and executed a number of ambitious infrastructure mega-projects, including Pakistan’s first modern mass transport system in Lahore. The Chinese consul general wrote to Shehbaz Sharif last year praising his “Punjab Speed” execution of projects under the huge China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. The diplomat also said Shehbaz Sharif and his party would be friends of China in government or in opposition.

Unlike Imran Khan, who has regularly denounced India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sharif has been more dovish towards the fellow nuclear-armed neighbour, with which Pakistan has fought three wars. In terms of his relationship with the powerful military, Shehbaz Sharif has long played the public “good cop” to Nawaz’s “bad cop”.

As prospective 15-month PM, Shehbaz Sharif has to make sure that he runs the government. Imran Khan in 2018 came to power with a promise to build Naya Pakistan with crores of jobs, checking corruption and keeping the prices in control. Nothing of the sort happened. Many observers say that Imran Khan’s failure on these fronts sowed the first seeds of disenchantment in the military establishment against his government.

The biggest challenge for the Sharif government is to keep the alliance intact. The two arch-rivals have joined hands against a third rising force. The PML-N has allied with the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of former Prime Minister late Benazir Bhutto and former President Asif Ali Zardari. And, these two parties have accepted the coalition leadership of Fazlur Rehman who heads the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur. But he may have just 15 months to cement his place in a country where the military is the only cemented political platform. Both brothers have faced numerous corruption cases in the National Accountability Bureau but Shehbaz has not been found guilty on any charges so far.