Pakistan elections 2013 - the parties

Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) - hoping for victory in 2013

PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif
PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif AFP

Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) has high hopes of the 2013 election. After leading the parliamentary opposition to the PPP-led government, it expects to capitalise on disappointment in President Asif Ali Zardari and his allies.


Born of the break-up of the Muslim League, the party of the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the party added an N in honour of its leader, Nawaz Sharif, who went onto become prime minister in 1990-93 and 1996-99.

  • Leader: Nawaz Sharif
  • Founders: Nawaz Sharif, Fida Mohammad Khan
  • Founded: 1988
  • In power: 1990-93, 1996-99

A secular party, despite its name, the PML-N is traditionally the right-wing opposition to the PPP, usually forming alliances with religious parties either to contest elections, in the Islamic Democratic Alliance in 1988 and 1990, or to form governments.

But it is the only party ever to have won a two-thirds majority in parliament, in 1997.

In 1998 Sharif’s government ordered six nuclear tests, establishing Pakistan as a nuclear power on a par with India, but that did not save it from clashes with the military.

In 1999 General Pervez Musharraf toppled the government in a peaceful military coup, accusing Sharif of trying to assassinate him.

A military court found the deposed prime minister guilty of "kidnapping, attempted murder, hijacking and terrorism and corruption" and gave him a life sentence, although, thanks to the intercession of Saudi King Fahd, he was allowed to go into voluntary exile along with his brother, Shahbaz.

After the coup the PML-N split with one faction becoming the PML-Q, which backed Musharraf and became the government party after the 2002 election.

The Sharif brothers returned to Pakistan in 2007 and in the 2008 election the PML-N emerged as the second largest party in parliament after the PPP.

Dossier: Pakistan General Election 2013

The two parties formed a coalition but the PML-N quit later in the year over President Asif Ali Zardari’s refusal to reinstate sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The party’s main support comes from business owners, especially in Punjab, the province that dominates the Pakistani state and economy.

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