(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) — As Pakistanis take to the polls for a historic election, the man poised to become Pakistan’s new leader isn’t really a new leader at all. He’s an old one.
Mian Nawaz Sharif, whose Punjabi family has long been power players in Pakistan’s dynamic politics, is leading the polls. His party, the Pakistan Muslim League, is expected to win the majority of seats on election day.
For Sharif, it’s a remarkable rise from the political ashes of exile. He was Pakistan’s prime minister from 1990 to 1993, a period marked by economic growth and relative stability. He served a second term from 1997 to 1999 before he was ushered out of the country during a military coup by Pervez Musharraf, a Pakistani general who went on to rule Pakistan for the next eight years. Sharif spent all of that time in exile, much of it in Saudi Arabia.
ABC News spoke with Sharif as he drove in his motorcade through the streets of Abbotabad, the small resort town where Osama bin Laden once lived. He made it clear that his first priority is the country’s economy. Chronic power shortage have crippled the country. During the day, most Pakistanis go without electricity for up to 15 hours a day. It has brought some Pakistani industries to a standstill.
On the war on terror, Sharif was far more non-committal, saying only that he hopes all stakeholders, including America and Afghanistan, will come together to discuss their concerns, what’s working and what isn’t. He has previously gone on record to say he thinks the war on terror needs a re-think, though he hasn’t fully clarified what that entails.
When pushed, he refused to elaborate further with ABC News.
“I think I’ve already answered that,” Sharif said riding in the front seat, taking a moment to wave to his fans. “I’ve given you so much material that you’ll have no problem in making your own summary.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Arthur Brice, CNN
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Sheena McKenzie, CNN