As Nawaz Sharif becomes PM, Kashmir gets voice in Pakistan power circuit

FPNawaz Sharif inspects the guard of honor during a ceremony in Islamabad on Wednesday. Reuters

Kashmir may have been missing from the agenda of the elections in Pakistan, but the country's new government will have Kashmiris in vital positions — beginning with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself.

Sharif, 63, who was sworn in for a historic third term on Wednesday, belongs to a family that migrated to Amritsar from South Kashmir's Anantnag district in the beginning of the last century. Sharif's close confidant Ishaq Dar, and influential PML (N) leader Khawaja Asif — both of whom are likely to get important positions in the new government — too have roots in Kashmir.

"My father would always tell me that we are from Anantnag. We had migrated to Amritsar from there for business," Sharif told this correspondent in his office in Lahore's Model Town last month where he sat with his key associates tracking the results of the election. "And my mother's family came from Pulwama."

Sharif said his parents would often talk about Kashmir. "I always wish I could go there. We have no idea whether we have any relative left there any longer," he said. From Amritsar's Jati Umra village, the Sharifs moved to Lahore, where they struck gold in business before Sharif joined politics.

Sitting next to Sharif on a large sofa during that meeting — at which Sharif's politician daughter Maryam Nawaz, son Hussain, politician brother Shahbaz and Shahbaz's son Salman too were present — was Ishaq Dar, a financial expert who had by then already started work on finding ways to tackle Pakistan's desperate economic situation.

Sharif introduced Dar as a Kashmiri, which Dar — whose son Ali is married to another of Nawaz Sharif's daughters — acknowledged with a nod. Well before the results were out, it was widely known in Pakistan that Dar would be the country's next finance minister.

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