South Asia

Maryam Nawaz elected head of Pakistan’s Punjab province

Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Pakistan’s three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was elected Monday as the chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. This election underscores the Sharif family’s growing influence in the South Asian country.

Maryam, 50, considered her father’s political heir, is the first woman to hold the position in Punjab, often a precursor to the prime minister’s office.

She won 220 votes in the 371-seat Punjab Assembly, according to the assembly speaker. The election was boycotted by the Sunni Ittehad Council party, which is backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan and his allies have alleged that the Feb. 8 national elections were rigged, a claim the country’s election commission denies.

“I am disappointed the opposition is not here to be part of this democratic process,” Maryam said in her address after the election, expressing her openness to dialogue with the opposition.

Maryam is the fourth member of her family to become chief minister of Punjab, a province representing 53% of Pakistan’s 241 million population and 60% of its $350 billion GDP. It is also the Sharif family’s home province.

Her father, Nawaz Sharif, and uncle, Shehbaz Sharif, have previously served as Punjab’s chief ministers. Shehbaz’s son also held the position last year.

Shehbaz is expected to be elected as Pakistan’s prime minister for a second time when parliament convenes later this week.

Known for her dynamic speeches and ability to attract large crowds, Maryam has not previously held a major public office. The 2024 general election marked her first electoral contest, representing her father’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.