Mian Sharif: businessman, kingmaker and philanthropist
LAHORE: Mian Muhammad Sharif was born in Jati Umra, Amritsar in 1920. After Partition, he and six of his brothers migrated to Lahore and settled in Gowal Mandi. Due to his love for his birthplace, Mian Sharif named his estate Raiwind after his village.
Mian Sharif and his brothers set up an iron-melting furnace in Landa Bazaar and in 1967-68 expanded the business with his brothers. Later, he set up the Ittefaq Mills in the Shahara area.
He went on to set up the Ittefaq Group of Companies and more than half a dozen factories and sugar mills across the Punjab. After rising to fame in Pakistan’s business circles, Mian Sharif entered the social fray and started several welfare projects. Sharif Medical City in Raiwind was his last welfare project in Pakistan.
Mian Sharif’s business faced a serious setback during the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s regime, as the government nationalised his industrial units and took over the Ittefaq Foundry. He realised that his business could not expand under the Bhutto government and shifted his business to the UAE.
When Gen Ziaul Haq deposed Zulfikar Bhutto and took over as the chief martial law administrator, Mian Sharif and his three sons returned to Pakistan and managed to get the Ittefaq Foundry back from the government. He also developed friendly relations with Gen Zia and became one of the general’s most trusted men.
Though he never formally took part in politics, Mian Sharif was known as a successful kingmaker. He pushed Nawaz Sharif towards politics and had him included as finance minister in the Punjab cabinet in 1983-84. In 1985, he used his relations with Gen Zia to get his son made Punjab chief minister, after which the Sharif family remained in the corridors of power till 1999.
Besides being a good businessman and kingmaker, Mian Sharif was also known to be a philanthropist and helped many people. He did not give up his charity work and kept helping the poor in Pakistan from Jeddah. Mian Sharif also established the Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia after his family was sent into exile by Gen Pervez Musharraf.