Article published on the 2008-05-10 Latest update 2008-05-14 15:08 TU
‘‘This party is in favour of lawyers, as well as the restoration of the judiciary, restoration of the constitution… that is why we are in favour of this party,’’ explained lawyer Sayef Ayaz, standing outside a polling booth in Lahore on 18 February, about why he was voting for the Pakistan Muslim League-N.
In the 2008 election, the PML-N gave the clearest commitment to restore the judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf in November 2007 and reverse constitutional changes which had increased his power.
That was the issue that led the party to announce it was leaving the government on 12 May.
The N stands for Nawaz Sharif, the party’s leader, who was prime minister from 1990 to 1993 - with a brief interruption when he was fired by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan only to be reinstated - and later from 1997 to 1999.
That spell in office ended when Musharraf, whom Sharif had tried to remove as chief-of-staff, accused the prime minister of trying to have him killed and organised a bloodless military coup.
An anti-terrorism court then gave Sharif a life sentence which was commuted when he agreed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia.
After an abortive attempt in September 2007, Sharif succeeded in going back to Pakistan in November, but only after his rival, PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, had staged her own triumphant return.
The PML-N’s power-base is Punjab, the province which dominates both the military and state bureaucracies. Nawaz Sharif was Punjab’s Chief Minister in the 1980s.
According to Sharif’s supporters, his greatest achievements in office were the construction of a motorway between Lahore and Islamabad, cheap loans to farmers and would-be taxi-drivers and the country’s first nuclear-bomb tests in 1998.
Sharif's critics accused his party of corruption and limiting civil liberties when it was in power. Washington is suspicious of the PML-N’s past association with hard-line Islamic parties.
The party appeared in its present form after the split of the PML-Q and other factions. It claims to continue the work of the Muslim League of Pakistan’s founder, Mohamed Ali Jinnah.
The PML-N won 91 seats in the 2008 general election, making it the second most powerful party in the National Assembly. It also won overwhelming control of the Punjab Provincial Assembly.
Pakistan's political parties