Pakistan's political system is broken: its political parties are ineffective, functioning for decades as instruments of two families, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, two clans, both corrupt. The Bhutto-Zardari axis may be considered "left leaning," while the Sharif brothers may be considered "right leaning." The Sharifs are much closer to Pakistan's military, and to Pakistan's Muslim fundamentalists. Punjabi, the Sharifs represent Pakistan's major ethnic bloc, and the devout Sunni Sharif has an advantage over the Bhuttos, who have Shiite ties.
Ittefaq Group of Industries (Ittefaq means unity ) is an industrial group based in Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan and the capital of the province of Punjab. It was founded by Muhammad Sharif, a prominent industrialist and father of one-time Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. The Ittefaq Foundry, a relatively modest cast-iron parts business, was established in 1939 by Mian Mohammad Sharif, of a family of Kashmiri immigrants who had settled in Punjab in the late 19th century. On migration from Amritsar at the time of partition, he settled in Lahore where he started the iron business, initially on limited scale.
In 1968, Dr Mahbubul Haq spoke of 22 families that controlled 68 percent of Pakistan's industrial assets, 86 percent of banking assets and many other sources of income generation. Almost all the big business groups of the 1970s had started in 1947 as family joint ventures.
Mian Sharif and his six brothers set up an iron-melting furnace in Landa Bazaar and in 1967-68 expanded the business with his brothers. Later, he set up the Ittefaq Mills in the Shahara area. He went on to set up the Ittefaq Group of Companies and more than half a dozen factories and sugar mills across the Punjab, rising to fame in Pakistan's business circles.
Mian Sharif's business faced a serious setback during the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's regime, as the government nationalised his industrial units and took over the Ittefaq Foundry. In 1972, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto nationalized the Ittefaq Foundry, the heart of the Sharif family's industrial empire, this set the Sharif family back considerably. The Sharifs disappeared from public eye and tried doing business in the West Asia. Mian Sharif founded the Sharif Group of Industries in 1974 after the nationalisation of the Ittefaq Foundry on the orders of prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
In 1981, the family returned with a bang, and shot up to power. When Gen Ziaul Haq deposed Zulfikar Bhutto and took over as the chief martial law administrator, Mian Sharif and his three sons returned to Pakistan and managed to get the Ittefaq Foundry back from the government. In 1978, General Ziaul Haq handed over Ittefaq Foundry to the Sharifs of Lahore without inviting any bids. In fact, two other nationalised units, Nowshera Engineering in the NWFP and Hilal Ghee in Multan, were handed over to their original owners. Mian Sharif also developed friendly relations with Gen Zia and became one of the general's most trusted men. In 1983, General Ziaul Haq inducted Nawaz Sharif into the Punjab provincial cabinet as finance minister. At that time the Ittefaq foundry turnover was in the billions, and it was paying revenues to the government.
Benazir Bhutto, Co-Chairperson of the PPP, took oath on Dec. 2, 1988 as the Prime Minister while the PPP governments were formed in Sindh and the NWFP provinces. However, Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif formed the IJI government in Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab. Similarly, the IJI was able to form a coalition government in Baluchistan. This was not the first time in the history of Pakistan that opposition parties have formed governments in provinces. Benazir's government soon came into clash with the antagonistic Nawaz government in the Punjab and the differences could not be resolved as long as she remained in power. The government tried to force the Ittefaq Foundry -- owned by Sharif Group -- out of business by instructing Pakistan Railways to refuse to cart scrap, imported from the US, from Karachi to Lahore. Sharif group's Ittefaq Foundry laid off 3,500 workers in summer 1989.
During the rule of Nawaz Sharif, the Gidani beach was the largest ship breaking industry in the world, providing more than $1 Billion in earnings to the people of the Mekran coast. To help the Ittefaq foundry keep its monopoly on steel, Nawaz Sharif imposed strict tariffs on the ship breaking industry, while expropriating the Pakistan Railway for free transportation of imported steel to Ittefaq Foundry. These acts of Nawaz Sharif destroyed the largest ship breaking industry in the world. The ships were sold at scrap value and provided valuable engines and repair material to an entire industry in Pakistan. The Gidani beach provided steel to the Pakistan Steel Mills as very low cost.
The House of Ittefaq, the industrial conglomerate of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family, is not unity anymore and 119 offspring's siblings and spouses of the seven founding brothers are currently battling in courts for the division of the assets of the Ittefaq group. As soon as Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister in 1990, Mian Mohammad Sharif switched over to setting up projects independent of the other partners, thus laying the grounds for split. According to agreement reached in Lahore High Court by members of the family sometime in 1996, the House of Ittefaq split in two groups. The first comprised the families of Mian Mohammad Sharif, Mohammad Shafi, Barkat Ali, Yousaf Aziz and Idrees Bashir while the second group comprised the families of Meraj Din and Siraj Din. Members of the Ittefaq group are currently operating in three groups namely Sharif Group, Ittefaq Group and Haseeb Waqas Group. The three groups have only four companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE).
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif left the country along with 18 other family members in December, 2000, after striking a deal with the military government. Mian Muhammad Sharif, father of Pakistan's ex-Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, died in October 2000. Mian Sharif, a respected politician and noted industrialist of Pakistan, was in exile in Saudi Arabia along with his family after an agreement in 2000 with the Pakistan government.
The Sharif family is the most influential family in the Punjab province, especially in the urban areas. The Sharif family is moving into third-generation politics. By grooming their sons, the Sharifs are perpetuating a political tradition that allows a few families to maintain a hold over national politics. The PML (N) continued to be led by the Sharif family, despite their exile in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis' restrictions on their political activities, that effectively cut them out of the 2002 elections.
Mian Mohammed Shahbaz Sharif, born in 1950, is the younger brother of ex-prime minister of Pakistan Mian Mohammed Nawaz Sharif. As a keen businessman he played a vital role in the success of Ittefaq Group of Companies, which was founded by his father and uncles. He came into politics to follow the footsteps of his brother and "Quaid" of Pakistan Muslim League. He remained Chief Minister of Pakistan's biggest province, Punjab from 20 Feb 1997 to 12 Oct 1999. He was elected as the president of Pakistan Muslim League on 3rd august 2002 while he was on exile in Saudi Arabia. After winning the majority in Punjab province in 2008 elections, he is elected as the leader of the house. He expected to take part in the by election and take the position of the Chief Minister of Punjab.
In August 2008 the reopening by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of the corruption cases about Hudaibia Paper Mills, Ittefaq Foundry and Raiwind assets meant that the entire Sharif family was in the dock. There are three cases against the Sharif brothers and their families, which do not fall under the ambit of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), as all these were established after 1999. The cases were registered in 2000. Nine persons were nominated in the Hudaibia paper mills case. They are late Mian Muhammad Sharif, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, widow of Mian Muhammad Sharif, Mian Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas wife of Mian Abbas Sharif and Mariam Safdar. In the case of Hudabiya Sugar Mills, the charge is of money laundering to the tune of over Rs600 million whereas in the case against Ittefaq Foundry, the directors are accused of bank loans default involving a total sum of Rs1.6 billion.
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