Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif’s wife contests by-election | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif’s wife contests by-election

The wife of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will contest a parliamentary by-election Sunday after her husband’s seat became vacant when he was ousted from office.

world Updated: Sep 17, 2017 17:53 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Maryam, Sharif’s daughter, led the campaign for the seat in Lahore, the family’s political stronghold, as her mother, Kalsum (in picture), is being treated for throat cancer in London.
Maryam, Sharif’s daughter, led the campaign for the seat in Lahore, the family’s political stronghold, as her mother, Kalsum (in picture), is being treated for throat cancer in London.(Reuters File Photo)

Polling started on Sunday for the NA-120 seat vacated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after the Supreme Court disqualified him, with a large number of people coming to cast their votes in the Lahore locality.

The high turnout suggests a close fight between Sharif’s PML-N party and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

The candidate for the PML-N, Sharif’s wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, is currently receiving medical treatment in Britain.

Her main opponent, PTI’s Dr Yasmin Rashid, expressed satisfaction at how the polling process was being carried out. She urged registered voters, particularly women, to come and cast their vote so as to “save the future of their offspring”. PTI, led by former cricketer Imran Khan, had played a key role in Sharif’s dismissal.

A total of 44 candidates are contesting for the National Assembly seat from Lahore. Pakistan Army personnel are supervising the polling process. The first ballot was cast at 8am and polling will continue till 5 pm.

Many voters complained that the process inside the polling stations was taking too long and that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should take notice.

Some polling stations were reported to be without electricity, causing inconvenience to the voters.

Voters also took to Twitter to complain of the alleged delays, to which Maryam Nawaz, Sharif daughter who is running her mother’s campaign, replied, “Don’t worry. Insha’Allah we will win.”

Hours after polling started, PTI activists and PML-N almost came to blows at Cooper Road, chanting slogans against each other. Law enforcement personnel warned the political workers of baton charge, following which the activists dispersed.

This constituency has thrice elected Nawaz Sharif as the country’s prime minister since 1990. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, biometric voter verification machines are also being tested in the constituency.

Some 30,000 voters will be casting their votes on biometric machines. More than 100 biometric machines have been installed at 39 polling stations.

The Supreme Court ended Sharif’s tenure and banned him from holding public office in July following an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family.

The seat has long been controlled by Sharif and his allies, but the by-election is seen as a test for PML-N.

A candidate from the Milli Muslim League, a new political party backed by Jamaat-ut-Dawa (JuD)), which is listed by the United Nations as a terror outfit, is also standing.

Muhammad Yaqub Sheikh is running as an independent candidate because his party has not yet been registered by the election commission.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of JuD, who has a US $10 million bounty on his head, is under “preventative detention” but photographs of him appeared on Sheikhs’ campaign posters.

JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed more than 160 people.

The Supreme Court had on Friday rejected an appeal from Sharif against his disqualification in the wake of the Panamagate investigation, which made him the 15th premier in Pakistan’s 70-year history to be ousted before completing a full term.

The case against the prime minister stemmed from the Panama Papers leak last year, which spurred a media frenzy over the extravagant lifestyles and high-end London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty.

The Supreme Court has also ordered the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau, to open a criminal case against Sharif, his sons -- Hussain and Hassan -- and his daughter Maryam.

Last month, Sharif led legions of supporters from the capital Islamabad to his hometown, Lahore, in a days-long procession that brought thousands into the streets in a show of force.

During the trip, Sharif repeatedly blasted the court’s actions, saying the decision was an “insult” to Pakistanis.

(With inputs from AFP)