Early life and education
Sharif was born on 28 October 1973 in Lahore, Pakistan,to Nawaz Sharif and Kulsoom Butt.
She received her early education from the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore. She wanted to become a doctorhence she enrolled in King Edward Medical College in the late 1980s, however after a controversy over illegal admission arose, she had to left the college without completing her degree.
In 1992, she married Safdar Awanat the age of 19. Awan was serving as captain in Pakistan Army at that time and was the security officer of Nawaz Sharif during the latter’s tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan. As of October 2017, she has three children with Safdar Awan: One son Junaid and two daughters Mahnoor and Mehr-un-Nisa.
She completed undergraduate studies from the University of Punjab, from where she received a master’s degreein literature.In 2012, she was doing her Ph.D. degree on post-9/11 radicalization in Pakistan.
In 2014, her degrees in M.A. (English Literature) and Ph.D. in Political Science were questioned by Lahore High Court. It was unclear whether her Ph.D. degree was earned or honorary.In 2018, she only declared her master’s degree in English Literature while submitting records to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Following 1999 Pakistani coup d’état, she remained under house arrest for four monthsbefore being sent to exile in Saudi Arabia together with the members of the Sharif family.
Prior to entering in politics, she remained involved in the family’s philanthropic organisationand served as the chairperson of Sharif Trust, Sharif Medical City and Sharif Education Institutes.
In November 2011, Shehbaz Sharif granted her permission to join the politics after she expressed her intention to participate in politics.During her political debut, she began visiting educational institutes to give speeches on education and women’s rights.
In January 2012, she tweeted “I’m only assisting [Nawaz Sharif] at the moment. No intentions of getting into electoral or practical politics”. She was made in-charge of Nawaz Sharif election campaign during Pakistani general election, 2013 where she reportedly played a prominent role.
She was regarded as “heir apparent” of Nawaz Sharif and the “presumed future leader” of the PML-N.
In November 2013, she was appointed as the chairperson of Prime Minister’s Youth Programme. However her appointment was called into question by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which termed the appointment a case of nepotism and moved the Lahore High Court in October 2014. PTI also accused her of misusing the government funds for her own image-building. On 12 November 2014, the Lahore High Court ordered the federal government to remove her. The next day, Sharif resigned from the post of the chairperson-ship.
In March 2017, she was selected as one of the BBC’s 100 Women. In December 2017, she was featured on The New York Times list of 11 Powerful Women Around the World for the year 2017.
She became politically active in 2017 after her father Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in relation to the Panama Papers case. She campaigned for her mother, Kulsoom Nawaz, during the by-elections in Constituency NA-120.
In June 2018, she was allocated PML-N ticket to contest the 2018 general election from Constituency NA-127 (Lahore-V) and PP-173. In July, she was sentenced to 7 years jail term on corruption charges in Avenfield reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau. As a result, she was disqualified from contesting election for 10 years. Following which PML-N nominated Ali Pervaiz and Malik Irfan Shafi Khokhar to contest the 2018 elections in constituency NA-127 and PP-173, respectively.
Panama Papers case
On 3 April 2016, the Panama Papers were leaked and Maryam was named in it along with her two brothers, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz. According to records uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Maryam was described as the owner of the British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, and allegedly the owner of the properties in the United Kingdom owned jointly by her brothers.In reaction, Maryam denied owning any company or property outside Pakistan and said “My brother has made me a trustee in one of his corporations which only entitles me to distribute assets to my brother Hussain’s family/children if needed”.
In September 2016, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan asking for action against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members for their alleged involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. In January 2017, Maryam submitted her statement to the Supreme Court saying she is not dependent on her father Nawaz Sharif since her marriage in 1992.On 16 February 2017, the lawyer of Maryam admitted before the Supreme Court that Maryam owned four flats in London for at least six months in 2006. On 20 April, the Supreme Court announced split verdict and ordered formation of the joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate Sharif family’s assets for irregularities. On 10 July, the JIT submitted its report to the Supreme Court in which it maintained that Sharif family has assets beyond known sources of income.In its report, the JIT noted that Maryam misled the Supreme Court by presenting fake documents and stated that the Calibri font used on the declaration dated 2006 produced by Maryam was not commercially available before January 31, 2007. The scandal was widely referred to as Fontgate.
The Supreme Court announced its decision on 28 July 2017 and disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding public office as he had been dishonest in not disclosing his employment in the Dubai-based Capital FZE company in his nomination papers. The court also ordered National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference against Sharif and his family members against corruption charges.
In September 2017, the NAB filed three corruption references against Nawaz Sharif and his three children including Maryam in compliance with the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.In October, an accountability court indicted Maryam, Nawaz Sharif and her husband in the Avenfield reference – one of three corruption references filed by the NAB – which pertains to the ownership of the Sharif family’s four flats at Avenfield, an apartment on Park Lane in London. After conducting 107 hearings of the Avenfield case since September 2017, the accountability court reserved its verdict in the case on 3 July 2018.
On 6 July 2018, she was sentenced to 7 years jail term and two million pounds by the NAB on corruption charges in Avenfield reference case. She was given 7 years for abetment and 1 year for non-cooperation with the NAB. Both sentences will run concurrently. As a result, she was disqualified from contesting election for 10 years. The court held that trust deeds presented by Maryam before the apex court were fake and had been tampered with. Her father Nawaz Sharif, and husband were also sentenced ten and one-years in prison, respectively.The court also ordered the seizure of the Avenfield flats of the Sharif family.
The next day, Maryam announced to return to Pakistan on 13 July to file an appeal against the decision.The same day, NAB announced to arrest her and Nawaz Sharif upon their arrival in Pakistan and obtained required arrest warrant.She along with Nawaz Sharif was taken into custody by NAB on 13 July upon their arrival at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport and were airlifted to Rawalpindi’s Adyala jail. On 26 July, she challenged her sentence in the Islamabad High Court and filed a petition for bail.The next day, the Islamabad High Court rejected her request for release on bail and adjourned the hearing till the end of Pakistani general election 2018.During her time in detention, she spent significant amounts of time reading books.
On 21 August 2018, Imran Khan-led federal government placed her on the Exit Control List in order to prevent her from leaving Pakistan.On 11 September, her mother Kulsoom Nawaz died in London. Maryam along with her father and husband were released from Adyala jail on parole. They were flown to Lahore to attend the funeral of her mother.Reportedly, Maryam and his father initially refused to be released on parole. Funeral of Kulsoom Nawaz was held on 14 September 2018.On 17 September, Maryam together with her father and husband shifted to Adyala jail.
On 19 September, the Islamabad High Court announced its verdict on the bail petition and suspended the prison sentences against Maryam, her father and husband, and ordered their release on bail. The court ordered them to pay Rs 500,000 each as surety bonds before their release. They were released from the Adiala jail the same day and were flown to Lahore.
In 2018, in her affidavit, Maryam declared her assets worth Rs 845 million.