Wagner claims ‘legal’ capture of Ukraine’s Bakhmut as six killed nearby

Medics from the Da Vinci Wolves Battalion evacuate a lightly wounded Ukrainian serviceman near the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on April 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 03 April 2023
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Wagner claims ‘legal’ capture of Ukraine’s Bakhmut as six killed nearby

  • The Wagner group has supported Russian troops throughout the offensive to surround Bakhmut
  • Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin had claimed Wagner units controlled 70 percent of the town

MOSCOW: Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group on Monday claimed it had “in a legal sense” captured the eastern Ukraine town of Bakhmut — the site of the longest battle of Moscow’s operation in the country — with its units now in control of city hall.

The Wagner group has supported Russian troops throughout the offensive to surround Bakhmut, the fight for which both sides have invested heavily, despite analysts’ assertions that the city carries little strategic value.

“The commanders of the units that took city hall and the whole center will go and put up this flag,” Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin said on his Telegram channel, referencing a Russian flag he is seen holding in a video accompanying the post.

“This is the Wagner private military company, these are the guys who took Bakhmut. In a legal sense, it’s ours.”

On March 20, Prigozhin had claimed Wagner units controlled 70 percent of the town.

Hours before Prigozhin’s claim, the Ukrainian general staff late Sunday said that though “the enemy has not stopped its assault of Bakhmut... Ukrainian defenders are courageously holding the city as they repel numerous enemy attacks.”

Also Sunday evening, President Volodymyr Zelensky had praised Ukrainian troops’ defense of the city, much of which now lies in ruins.

“I am grateful to our warriors who are fighting near Avdiivka, Maryinka, near Bakhmut... Especially Bakhmut! It’s especially hot there today!” Zelensky said in his own post to Telegram.

Near Bakhmut, about 27 kilometers (17 miles) away in Kostyantynivka, a “massive attack” of Russian missiles left three men and three women dead and eleven wounded Sunday, Ukrainian authorities said.

Zelensky said the affected zones are “just residential areas,” where “ordinary civilians of an ordinary city of Donbas” were targeted.

There was a large crater in a yard and windows were shattered from ground to top floors in two 14-story tower blocks, while private homes nearby had smashed roofs, AFP journalists saw.

Donetsk regional police said Russia fired S-300 and Uragan missiles in a “massive attack” on Kostyantynivka involving six strikes just after 10 am local time (0700 GMT).

The blast hit “16 apartment buildings, eight private residences, a kindergarten, an administrative building, three cars and a gas pipeline,” police said.

Liliya, a 19-year-old psychology student, stood outside her severely damaged high-rise block.

“I found out about this on the news. And when I was told about it and I saw that it was my area, I was just shocked,” Liliya said, as broken glass continued to rain down from windows.

“I’m very, very lucky that I wasn’t home at that moment,” she added, after deciding to stay with her boyfriend.

“Everything is bombed out. And I think it’s like that in every flat, in fact. Because it was such an impact that it was very hard for anything to stay unbroken.”

Nina, a pensioner, was looking at the damage to her ground-floor flat in a Soviet-era block. She was also not home when the missile struck.

“The internal doors and the front door were blown in. An internal partition wall has broken. There’s not a single window left,” she said.

Soldiers were examining the scene afterwards as well an armed man in civilian clothes.

Watching while holding a shopping bag, Sergiy, 61, said “the shock wave came all the way to us, about a kilometer away.”

Mortar fire also killed two people in the northeast Sumy region, Zelensky said.

“These are just a few examples of the dozens of bombings every day,” he continued.

“There is only one way to stop Russian terrorism and restore security to all our cities and communities. And this path is a military victory for Ukraine.”

Earlier Sunday, Zelensky also commemorated the first anniversary of the discovery of bodies of civilians killed in Bucha, a town near Kyiv that has become a symbol of the alleged atrocities carried out by Moscow during the conflict.

Russia has accused Ukraine and its allies of staging the scene.

“People of Ukraine! You have stopped the biggest force against humanity of our time,” Zelensky added in another post on Telegram, accompanied by photos of areas liberated a year ago when Russian troops retreated from around the Ukrainian capital.

“You have stopped a force that despises everything and wants to destroy everything that gives people meaning,” Zelensky said.

“We will liberate all our lands.”

Also Sunday, in St. Petersburg, a leading Russian military blogger and fervent defender of the military offensive in Ukraine was killed by a bomb attack in a cafe, investigators said.

Vladlen Tatarsky was reportedly killed after receiving a gift rigged with an explosive device, at an event organized by Cyber Front Z, which refers to itself on social media as “Russia’s information troops.”

Around two dozen other people were injured.

Earlier in the weekend, Russia on Saturday took over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council despite outrage from Kyiv and Western nations that have imposed sanctions on Moscow.


Zelensky defiant as Ukraine mourns victims of Odesa drone strike

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Zelensky defiant as Ukraine mourns victims of Odesa drone strike

  • The attack killed five children, including two babies less than a year old, according to statements by Zelensky and the regional governor

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday called for the world to help Kyiv defeat “Russian evil” as the death toll from a drone strike on Odesa rose to 12, including five children.
The strike on an apartment block in the southern port city early Saturday morning partially destroyed several floors, leaving more than a dozen people under the rubble.
The attack killed five children, including two babies less than a year old, according to statements by Zelensky and the regional governor.
“Mark, who was not even three years old, Yelyzaveta, eight months old, and Timofey, four months old,” Zelensky said, naming the youngest victims of the strike in a post on Telegram.
“Ukrainian children are Russia’s military targets,” he added.
Rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble on Sunday evening, more than 36 hours after the strike, although Zelensky said the search and rescue operation had been called off.
He had pleaded Saturday with Kyiv’s Western allies to supply more air-defense systems as Russia continued to pound Ukraine with drones, missiles and artillery fire in the war’s third year.
Kyiv is currently on the back foot, following recent battlefield gains by Russia.
Zelensky said this latest strike underlined the importance of supporting Ukraine. A stalled $60-billion aid package from the United States has left Kyiv facing ammunition shortages.
“We are waiting for supplies that are vitally necessary, we are waiting, in particular, for an American solution,” Zelensky said later Sunday in his evening address.
Russia had lost 15 military aircraft since the beginning of February, he added. “The more opportunities we have to shoot down Russian aircraft... the more Ukrainian lives will be saved.”
There was no comment on the Odesa attack in Moscow. It denies targeting civilians despite evidence of Russian strikes on residential areas and the United Nations having verified at least 10,000 civilian deaths since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Ukraine’s emergency services said they had found the bodies of families huddled together as they sifted through the rubble Sunday.
“A mother tried to cover her eight-month-old baby with her body. They were found in a tight embrace,” the agency said on Telegram.
Odesa Governor Oleg Kiper said the bodies of a brother and sister, aged 10 and eight, were also found together in the debris on Sunday evening.
In other incidents, Ukraine’s interior ministry reported one death and three people wounded in the southern Kherson region; and police said an airstrike on a residential quarter of Kurakhove, a town in the eastern Donetsk region, had wounded 16 people.
Russian military bloggers also reported a massive Ukrainian drone attack on the annexed peninsula of Crimea overnight.
Moscow said it shot down 38 Ukrainian drones, while the Rybar Telegram channel, close to Russia’s armed forces, said one had hit a pipeline at an oil depot, the presumed target of the attack.
Kyiv has hit several Russian oil facilities in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.
A senior Ukrainian commander also accused Russian forces of dropping explosives containing an unspecified chemical substance over the battlefield, and said the situation on the front lines was “complicated, but under control.”
Meanwhile, the fallout from a leaked audio recording of German military officials looked set to sink relations between Moscow and Berlin even lower on Sunday.
A 38-minute recording of German officers discussing the possible use of German-made Taurus missiles by Ukraine and their potential impact was posted on Russian social media late Friday.
Russia has demanded an explanation from Berlin.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Sunday that Moscow was “using this recording to destabilize and unsettle us,” adding that this was part of Putin’s “information war.”


US Supreme Court to issue ruling; Trump ballot case looms

Updated 34 min 15 sec ago
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US Supreme Court to issue ruling; Trump ballot case looms

  • The highest court did not specify what ruling it would issue, but the justices on Feb. 8 heard arguments in Trump’s appeal to overturn a lower court ruling that kicked him off the ballot for taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection
WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court plans to issue at least one ruling on Monday, the day before Colorado holds a presidential primary election in which a lower court kicked Republican frontrunner Donald Trump off the ballot for taking part in an insurrection during the Jan. 6, 2021 US Capitol attack. The Supreme Court, in an unusual Sunday update to its schedule, did not specify what ruling it would issue. But the justices on Feb. 8 heard arguments in Trump’s appeal of the Colorado ruling and are due to issue their own decision. Colorado is one of 15 states and a US territory holding primary elections on “Super Tuesday.” Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 US election. The Republican Party of Colorado has asked the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump, to rule before Tuesday in the ballot eligibility case. During arguments, Supreme Court justices signaled sympathy toward Trump’s appeal of a Dec. 19 ruling by Colorado’s top court to disqualify him from the state’s ballot under the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from holding public office any “officer of the United States” who took an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Trump supporters attacked police and swarmed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump gave an incendiary speech to supporters beforehand, telling them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He then for hours rebuffed requests that he urge the mob to stop. Anti-Trump forces have sought to disqualify him in more than two dozen other states — a mostly unsuccessful effort — over his actions relating to the Jan. 6 attack. Maine and Illinois also have barred Trump from their ballot, though both those decisions are on hold pending the Supreme Court’s Colorado ruling. During arguments in the Colorado case, Supreme Court justices — conservatives and liberals alike — expressed concern about states taking sweeping actions that could impact a presidential election nationwide. They pondered how states can properly enforce the Section 3 disqualification language against candidates, with several wondering whether Congress must first pass legislation to enable that. In another case with high stakes for the election, the Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden. The court appears likely to reject Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution, according to legal experts, but its decision to spend months on the matter could aid his quest to regain the presidency by further delaying a monumental criminal trial. Trump’s lawyers have argued that he should be shielded from prosecution for his effort to reverse Biden’s victory because he was president when he took those actions, a sweeping assertion of immunity firmly rejected by lower courts. But the Supreme Court’s decision not to schedule its arguments on the issue until late April reduces the chances that a trial on the election subversion charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith could be finished before the presidential election.

Outstanding female achievement recognized at 10th Arab Women of the Year ceremony in London

Updated 03 March 2024
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Outstanding female achievement recognized at 10th Arab Women of the Year ceremony in London

LONDON: Arab women from diverse professional backgrounds were honored for their global achievements at an annual awards ceremony in London, with Saudi Arabia leading the praise for female empowerment.

The 10th Arab Women of the Year Awards, organized by the UK-based London Arabia Organization, this year celebrated eight females for their achievements in business leadership, research and development, creativity, cultural pioneering, social development, cultural exchange, cybersecurity education, and humanitarian aid.

Omar Bdour, chief executive officer of the organization, said: “We don’t set a category, because we want every woman to go to our website for nominations and feel that she’s not pushed away, so it’s open to all fields and anyone can nominate anyone.”

This year saw the entry of new categories in creativity, as well as cybersecurity education, he told Arab News during the ceremony that was hosted at the Carlton Tower Jumeirah on Wednesday. Through the awards, organizers aim to strengthen UK-Arab ties by focusing on empowering Arab women worldwide.

Winners with their award at the 10th Arab Women of the Year Awards. (Supplied)

Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, founder of Saudi Fashion Week and the Global Culture House, a Saudi boutique consultancy, thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “for their vision and enablement of women with the minister of culture.”

The princess dedicated her award in cultural pioneering to “all the women out there.”

She said: “I was recently in the public sector, so I owe this to the Ministry of Culture for furthering my career, as well as from a personal perspective, my dear parents and siblings, and the other people that have supported my career growth through partnerships and opportunities.”

Princess Noura joined the ministry in 2019 where she headed strategy development for the Kingdom’s fashion sector and helped support and nurture local talent.

Winner of the social development achievement went to Emirati Khuloud Hassan Al-Nuwais, a businesswoman and strategist who has been profiled as one of the UAE’s inspirational leaders in 2014 and played a key role in establishing the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Foundation, a national charity dedicated to facilitating public-private social development programs and initiatives.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the awards, organizers decided to host the first annual Arab Women’s Summit on Thursday at Lancaster House. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“My journey from the private sector to philanthropy was a decision driven by a desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

“Our leadership’s commitment to empowering women in the UAE has given me the opportunity to grow, to give and to serve as I reflect on this journey,” Al-Nuwais said.

Baria Alamuddin, a member of the organization’s advisory board, said: “(Awards that celebrate) successful women give them a lot of confidence, a lot of things to look forward to.

“I think in the Arab world we need it, because for a long time women in the Arab world have been brought up (to believe) that the brother and the boy can do more things and are more important.”

A writer and journalist, she noted that Arab societies were “reaching some kind of an equilibrium,” but that Arab women still “lacked a bit of self-confidence.”

Bahraini ambassador to UK Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa with an award winner. (Supplied)

On the awards’ cybersecurity category, she added: “It is extremely important in our part of the world (and) we need it because, as you know, this is almost the new enemy in the new world, and we cannot live without our internet and our connections.”

Alamuddin also called for equal opportunities for women in computer programming, journalism, the army, parliament, and many other fields.

And she praised the increase in Saudi female participation in the workforce, currently running at 34 percent, which had already surpassed the Vision 2030 target of 30 percent of the labor market.

“What I like about Saudi women is their passion. They really want to arrive, they really want to succeed, they really want to be firm believers, and they’re not only proud of their country, but also to participate in the development of their country and the Arab world at large,” Alamuddin said.

London Arabia annually hosts sessions at the British Parliament and various universities on the sidelines of the awards ceremony, but this year, to mark the 10th anniversary, organizers decided to host the first annual Arab Women’s Summit on Thursday at Lancaster House with former UK Prime Minister Theresa May as headline speaker.

Baria Alamuddin (C), a member of the organization’s advisory board, spoke at the Arab Women’s Summit. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

Kiran Haslam, chief marketing officer for the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, a key sponsor of the event, said: “It’s a very important summit and some of the discussion points that we’ve had, the recipients of the awards from the ceremony, which was absolutely sensational to experience, and to hear their own words of what motivated them and drove them to succeed in the way that they have, was absolutely fantastic.”

He pointed out that the two-day event took seriously the opportunity, vision, and ambition of the Kingdom under the country’s leadership.

“What we have is an extraordinary development in society which sees 85 percent of the workforce in Diriyah being Saudi, 36 percent being female, 16 percent of the female population of employees we have are in senior leadership positions, which is a real testament to the vision and the ambition and sees really delivering the Diriyah project through extremely authentic eyes, hearts, and minds.

“The entire Vision 2030 path that has been laid is unlocking so many very special ways in which society is developing.

“I encounter young Saudi women all across the world who are being recognized and awarded for exceptional things, their exceptional perseverance, their intellect, dedication, and focus on particular subjects and causes,” Haslam added.


Bangkok lab leads ‘halal science’ development as Thailand seeks to become industry hub

Researchers work at the Halal Science Center in Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Feb. 22, 2024. (AN photo)
Updated 03 March 2024
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Bangkok lab leads ‘halal science’ development as Thailand seeks to become industry hub

  • Thailand is seeking to become a regional halal hub, increase halal exports
  • Bangkok center in talks with SFDA to establish halal science lab in Saudi Arabia

BANGKOK: For the last two decades, Dr. Winai Dahlan has helmed the development of halal research initiatives in Buddhist-majority Thailand to ensure food safety standards that conform with Islamic laws. 

The country’s start in halal science began as an answer to increasing calls by Thai Muslims for scientific testing in halal food development in the late 1990s after the discovery of beef sausage products for Muslim consumers that were tainted with pork caused an uproar. 

The demands of Muslim consumers in the country, which make up about 5 percent of Thailand’s 66 million population, along with increased awareness of halal standards, led to the establishment of a halal research center at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. 

“When the Thailand policymakers realized the significance of the science … Chulalongkorn University (and) myself at that time … established a small laboratory in the Faculty of Allied Health Science,” Dahlan, who is the center’s director, told Arab News. 

That small lab eventually became a full-scale facility, with the government granting a budget for the public university to do so following controversies related to halal food products in the region.

“In that year, 2003, Thailand finally had the first halal laboratory.” 

The center, which operates under the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, is the only one of its kind in Thailand and has been dubbed the world’s first halal science institution. 

It developed the standardization known as HAL-Q, or the Halal Assurance, Liability-Quality System, which has been adopted to integrate halal standards into food safety and is used by more than 770 factories employing more than 200,000 people across the kingdom. 

Dahlan’s team had worked on the Shariah-compliant ICT Logistics Kontrol system, or SILK, an information technology system developed for the halal supply chain, logistics and traceability management that is also compatible with HAL-Q. 

They also developed the Halal Route app, which will soon be launched in Arabic and functions as a directory and review platform for Muslim travelers to easily find mosques and halal restaurants when visiting Thailand. 

The Halal Science Center’s leading role in the field also provides an economic opportunity for Thailand, at a time when the government is seeking to boost the country’s halal exports. 

“Thailand has great potential for becoming a regional halal hub because of its abundance of raw materials to produce halal food in response to the demands of many countries worldwide,” the Thai government’s public relations department said in a statement issued on Feb. 27. 

“Thailand also has great opportunities to increase its halal exports to both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.” 

Thai exports of halal food products reached around 217 billion baht ($6 billion) in the first 11 months of 2023, growing 2.6 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, with over 15,000 halal food producers in the country, according to official data. 

Many countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have set up strategies to tap into the thriving global halal market, which is estimated to be worth more than $7 trillion. 

But in Thailand, there is still a need to educate the private sector on halal-related matters, Dahlan said. 

“I think (this is) very important in order to boost up the total exports to Muslim countries … We still have room for expanding our product to the Middle East.” 

Dahlan has grown more optimistic with recent developments in Saudi-Thai relations, which were officially restored in 2022. 

“After that, it’s like (a) broken dam, water comes (out), big flood of Saudi tourists to Thailand … We have a very high expectation for the relationship, and also for the export,” Dahlan said. 

Since then, the center has taken part in the Thailand Mega Fair 2023 in Riyadh, during which Dahlan gave a lecture on the nation’s halal science development. He said the center is also in talks with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority about establishing a halal science laboratory in Saudi Arabia. 

“From the Thai side, especially for the Muslims in Thailand, they are so excited. We have been waiting for 32 years for the normal relationship between Thailand and Saudi Arabia.”


Shehbaz Sharif becomes prime minister of Pakistan, nation politically divided and in economic crisis

Updated 03 March 2024
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Shehbaz Sharif becomes prime minister of Pakistan, nation politically divided and in economic crisis

  • New PM will have to tackle tough opposition, maintain relations with army and fix security and financial problems
  • Lowering political temperatures will be key challenge for Sharif as ex-PM Khan maintains mass support in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s newly elected lower house of parliament on Sunday elected Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister for a second time, putting him back in a role he had stepped down from ahead of general elections on Feb. 8. 

Sharif, the candidate for his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and coalition allies, secured a comfortable win over Omar Ayub Khan of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of jailed former PM Imran Khan. 

Elections last month threw up a hung National Assembly and have been followed by weeks of protests by opposition parties over allegations of rigging and vote count fraud. 

In his first speech as PM, Sharif, 72, spoke of Pakistan’s burgeoning debt, saying it would be his government’s top priority to solve the economic struggles of the nation of 241 million people. 

“The parliament that we are sitting in, even the expenses of its proceedings are being paid through loans … Your salary and the salaries of all these people are being paid through loans,” the new PM said, as PML-N lawmekers cheered and opposition members chanted slogans against the leader of the house. 

“We will make Pakistan great and raise our heads high and move forward.”

Sharif, the younger brother of former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, played a key role in keeping together a coalition of disparate parties for 16 months after parliament voted Imran Khan out of office in April 2022, and in securing a last gasp International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout deal in 2023. 

 

“CHALLENGES” 

Independent candidates backed by Khan gained the most seats, 93, after the elections, but the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of the Bhutto dynasty agreed to an alliance to form a coalition government on Feb. 20. No single party won a majority.

The Sunni Ittehad Council backed by Khan alleges that the election was rigged against it and has called for an audit of the polls. Lowering political temperatures will thus be a key challenge for Sharif as Khan maintains mass popular support in Pakistan, and a continued crackdown on his party and his remaining in jail would likely stoke tensions at a time when stability is needed to attract foreign investment to shore up the economy.

Sharif’s main role will also be to maintain ties with the military, which has directly or indirectly dominated Pakistan since independence. Unlike his elder brother, who has had a rocky relationship with the military in all his three terms, the younger Sharif is considered more acceptable and compliant by the generals, most independent analysts say.

For several years, the military has denied it interferes in politics. But it has in the past directly intervened to topple civilian governments three times, and no prime minister has finished a full five-year term since independence in 1947.

Sharif also takes over a time when the new government will need to take tough decisions to steer the country out of financial crisis, including negotiating a new bailout deal with the IMF. The current IMF program expires this month. A new program will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery, but which will limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth. 

Inflation touched a high of 38 percent with record depreciation of the rupee currency under Sharif’s last government, mainly due to structural reforms necessitated by the IMF program. Pakistan continues to be enmeshed in economic crisis with inflation remaining high, hovering around 30 percent, and economic growth slowing to around 2 percent.

Other big moves by Sharif will include the privatization of loss-making state-owned enterprises such as the flagship carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The Sharifs have close ties with rulers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which could help in securing investments in several projects Pakistan has lately showcased for sale.

Although defense and key foreign policy decisions are largely influenced by the military, Sharif will have to juggle relations with the US and China, both major allies. He is also faced with dealing with fraying ties with three of Pakistan’s four neighbors, India, Iran and Afghanistan.

Pakistan is also facing a troubling rise in militancy, which Sharif’s government will have to immediately tackle. 

“There are certainly difficulties but nothing is impossible if there is a will to do,” Sharif said in his maiden speech. 

“It is a long journey, thorny journey, full of hurdles but those nations who surmounted these huge obstacles, they became again, one of the most growing nations around the world.”

“CAN DO ADMINISTRATOR” 

Sharif, born in the eastern city of Lahore, belongs to a wealthy Kashmiri-origin family that was in the steel business. He started his political career as the chief minister of Punjab in 1997 with a signature “can-do” administrative style. Cabinet members and bureaucrats who have worked closely with him call him a workaholic.

As chief minister, the younger Sharif planned and executed a number of ambitious infrastructure mega-projects, including Pakistan’s first modern mass transport system in Lahore.

He was caught up in the national political upheaval when his brother was ousted from the premiership by a military coup in 1999 and he went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Sharif entered the national political scene again when he became the chief of the PML-N after the elder Sharif was found guilty in 2017 on charges of concealing assets related to the Panama Papers revelations. The Sharifs have been emboriled in multiple corruption cases over the decades, which they say are politically motivated. 

Married twice, Shehbaz Sharif has two sons and two daughters from his first marriage. Only one of his sons, Hamza, is in politics and was briefly CM of Punjab in 2023.

With inputs from Reuters