It was the October of 1999 and the Prime Minister of Pakistan was on trial for kidnapping, attempted murder, hijacking, terrorism, and corruption. In the following days, his head-counsel was gunned down, and a death penalty was awaited. The man running against him was Pervez Musharraf the four-star army general, that Sharif had appointed as the head of the armed forces. The political scene was deteriorating rapidly, and the international community had their eyes set on the Supreme Court ruling.
The public was puzzled and confused by the threats of further chaos. In the months that followed, Sharif was convicted, imprisoned on the charges only to be pardoned by General Musharaff and delivered safely to Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had a family, business ties with the Sharif Family, hence on December 11, 2000, a deal was agreed on, and Sharif, along with his family was granted asylum in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The world was looking at Jeddah. The Sharif’s were given a generous loan by the Saudi Government to set up a steel mill in the district of Sanaiya. The politicians back home far more than initially anticipated the significance of the asylum episode.
As the Sharif has built an empire of Industries both in and outside Jeddah, their fraudulent recourses grew. The network of businesses that include steel, sugar and paper mills and extensive international property holdings soon grew all over the Middle East, particularly UEA and Dubai. Nawaz Sharif’s sons later settled in London, expanding the family business. As the dust settled, and the political cooled down, the Sharif’s returned to Pakistan. They participated in the 2008 General Elections and resumed their role as a passive opposition.
The context Jeddah brings to the table is that of being an escape haven for the Pakistani ruling elite, an industrial base and quite recently of scandal. The shocking revelations of the infamous Panama Papers brought Saudi Arabia back into the spotlight. The papers revealed the many offshore companies of the Sharif clan. However, the most significant was the Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited situated at the British Virgin Island. The beneficiary was the daughter of Sharif, Mariam Safdar, with Saroor Palace, Jeddah the family’s residence during the exile as the registered address. Once again highlighting Jeddah as an essential element of Pakistani politics.
In short, Jeddah is to Nawaz Sharif what Mara-Lago is to Donald Trump.