Maryam hints at prime ministership, says ‘people tell me I was meant for a certain role’

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LAHORE: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz has hinted that she might run for prime minister in General Elections 2018, saying that “people around me tell me I was meant for a certain role”.

She expressed these views in an interview with The New York Times.

The NY Times reported that Maryam hesitated to directly address whether she had ambitions to become prime minister, but she said that it was her family’s decision that she lead the party—ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

However, Maryam Nawaz denied that she has said that during the interview.

“The statement is wrongly ascribed to me,” she tweeted.

Speaking about ongoing graft cases against the Sharif family, Maryam reiterated that the cases are politically motivated, adding that the cases are “nothing more than blatant political victimisation and pressure tactics”.

“People remain undeterred, and support for the Pakistan Muslim League has further galvanised,” added the PML-N leader.

Speaking about October 1999 coup, she described how soldiers dragged her father from office and the ensuing years of exile in Saudi Arabia for her and more than 20 other members of her family.

Maryam said that her family’s resilience has been hardened by decades spent as the target of political rivals and the country’s powerful military establishment.

“Prisons, disqualifications, sham trials, house arrests, court cases — been there, done that,” Maryam said.

“I am undeterred, unperturbed, fighting,” she added.

Addressing the rumours of a rift within the family, she said that that rumours of infighting are overblown.

“It’s not a divided house; the Sharif family takes a lot of pride in family values and the family ethos.”

About her uncle Shehbaz Sharif possibly becoming prime minister, she said: “He’s the most competent person. He’s my hero. I love him to death.”

As for her personal role, Maryam said that the political chapter of her life has been a recent one. She described her upbringing as relatively traditional, and said that for a long time she “never saw herself in politics,” in a family in which political leadership had long been a man’s game.

She said her childhood was filled with singing and playing the piano. She was educated at the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Lahore, dropped out of medical school and finished a master’s degree in literature at the University of the Punjab.

At 19, she married Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar, who had served as the military’s attendant to her father in his first stint as prime minister. The couple have three grown children, and Maryam said that she feels lucky to have married young.

“I gave all my time to my kids when they were growing up,” she said. “Now, I am independent. I have more time for myself, for my work. I could not be doing all this today if I still had small children.”

She is frank about enjoying the finer things in life—designer handbags, expensive jewellery—even as the family’s taste for luxury stands at the centre of the corruption allegations.

“I’m a woman, I’m human,” she said.

She said it was her grandfather who first recognised her administrative and political potential and appointed her to important positions in the family’s operations. Over the years, she said, her father, too, came to appreciate her abilities. Today, she said, one of her most important skills is the capacity to convey advice and criticism to her father, a man who stubbornly refuses it from others, occasionally persuading him to change his mind.

“People around me tell me I was meant for a certain role,” she said when asked whether she ever saw herself as a future prime minister.

“I don’t know what tomorrow holds,” she said. “But I think I owe it to the people. I need to reach out to them,” she concluded.