Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sartaj Aziz, has also served as Finance Minister during both first and second terms of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Aziz was born in the Pashtun Kakakhel family in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the 1940s, he was a young activist in the Muslim League-led Pakistan movement. He studied at Islamia College, Lahore and obtained a Bachelor's degree in Economics from the Punjab University in 1949.
Sartaj Aziz joined the civil service of Pakistan in 1950. Later, he travelled to the United States and gained a Master's degree in public administration from Harvard University in 1962. Returning to work in the government, he attained the position of joint secretary in the Planning Commission of Pakistan in 1967. He later worked in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization from 1971 to 1975, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development from 1978 to 1984.
Sartaj Aziz did not join the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but was hostile towards the issue of nationalisation. He criticised Bhutto for intensifying the government control of the privatised mega-corporations, citing that "Bhutto’s nationalization failed to make up for the "mismatch" between economic reality and policy formulation". In protest, He departed from Pakistan in 1971 and joined the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization until 1975, and later joined the staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in 1978.
In 1984, Sartaj Aziz joined the Military Government of President and Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq as Minister of state for Food, Agriculture and Cooperatives. He was elected to the Senate of Pakistan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 1985 elections and again in 1993 parliamentary elections. From 1988 to 1994, he served as senator from the capital territory of Islamabad in 1988.
Having joined the Pakistan Muslim League (N), Aziz was appointed the minister of finance, planning and economic affairs in the first Nawaz Sharif ministry from 1990 to 1993. In 1993, he was appointed the secretary general of the party. He was the proponent of privatisation of the major government-owned state corporations of Pakistan, and as Finance minister, he played a pivotal role in privatising the economy of Pakistan.
After the PML (N)'s landslide victory in the 1997 parliamentary election, Sartaj Aziz was re-appointed Finance Minister by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif where he continued his privatisation policies. He adopted the proposed economic theory of matching economic requirements with national strategy. He was tasked with intensifying country's economical system more dependent on investment, privatisation and the economical integrals penetrating through the matters of national security.
Sartaj Aziz was extremely upset and frustrated after learning the Indian' nuclear testing that took place in Pokhran Test Range of Indian Army in May 1998, through the media. He prepared his economical proposals, requests and recommendation before meeting with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The meeting was chaired by the Prime minister with stake-holders of all institutions (both scientific, military, civilians, and bureaucratic) attended the meeting calling for the suitable reply to India.
At this meeting, Sartaj Aziz was the only senior minister in Pakistan's government who counseled against Pakistan carrying out its own nuclear tests – codename Chagai-I and Chagai-II, on grounds of the possible devastating impact of any subsequent international sanctions on Pakistan owing to the prevailing economic recession and low foreign exchange reserves.
However, due to economical sanctions, Sartaj Aziz briefly abandoned his theory of matching economic requirements with national strategy. In 2001, he publicly supported the government's stance on conducting the tests, calling it a "right decision" at that time.
Following a cabinet reshuffle in 1998, Sartaj Aziz was appointed foreign minister but his term was cut short. During the 1999 Kargil War with India, he travelled to the People's Republic of China to solicit support for Pakistan. He also travelled to India to hold talks with his counterpart, the Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh, but the talks were regarded as a failure and unsuccessful in stemming the conflict.
Sartaj Aziz claimed India had "overreacted", while India demanded that Pakistan stop the incursion into Indian-administered Kashmir. He also represented Pakistan at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Burkina Faso, held during the Kargil conflict. Aziz later claimed in the media that Pakistan had achieved its aims in the Kargil conflict by "forcing the Kashmir dispute to the top of the global agenda."
His term ended abruptly after the Nawaz Sharif government was overthrown in a military coup by Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf.
Sartaj Aziz associated himself with the academic institutions and universities of Pakistan, lecturing on the issues of economics, public development, and global finance. During his term as finance minister, he made an effort with neighbouring India to promote peace and harmony between two countries and during his lecture on economic reforms and development in South Asia at the Delhi University, Aziz stressed the importance of normalisation of relations between both countries. His leading peace activism efforts led India to declare Pakistan as Most favoured nation (MFN) in 1996, and won praise by Inder Kumar Gujral, Indian counterpart of his at that time.
Since 1998, Aziz remained associated with Quaid-e-Azam University where he occasionally lectured on Economics and philosophy where he also lectured on Pakistan's Foreign policy. Since 1990, Aziz authored four international books on economics and philosophy. In which, the most publicly known is the "Between dreams and realities: some milestones in Pakistan's history", which was published in 2009 by the University press.
Sartaj Aziz was forcefully quiet by his peers during the wave of 1999 military coup d'état which started and ended the massive arrests of his colleagues and government ministers of Nawaz Sharif. Since then, he remained quiet and dedicated his life to work on economical issues. In 2001, Aziz joined the Department of Social Sciences of the Beaconhouse National University and served there as a professor of Economics. In 2009, Aziz was appointed and is currently tenuring as the Vice-Chancellor of the Beaconhouse National University in Lahore.
For his participation in the Pakistan movement, Aziz is the holder of the Sanad, Mujahid-e-Pakistan. In 1959, he was awarded the Tamgha-e-Pakistan and the Sitara-e-Khidmat in 1967 for his work in central planning and economic development.
According to Pakistan Muslim League (N) sources, veteran politician Sartaj Aziz has emerged as a strong presidential candidate to be elected in September 2013.