The ousted Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif’s wife, Begum Kulsoom, has won the key by-election in Lahore. The contest here was widely seen as a test of support for the family after the Supreme Court dismissed Sharif from the office in the Panama Papers scandal.
Kulsoom won the NA-120 seat in a close contest defeating cricket-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf candidate Yasmin Rashid.
The parliamentary seat had fallen vacant after Shrif was disqualified by the country’s Supreme Court on 28 July in the Panama Papers case on grounds that he was dishonest.
According to Pakistani Election Commission, Kulsoom secured 59,413 votes while her PTI opponent Rashid bagged 46,145 votes. Sheikh Yaqoob from the Milli Muslim League, a new party backed by Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ut-Dawa (JuD), stood third with more than 4,000 votes, reported Press Trust of India.
However, in 2013 general elections, Nawaz Sharif had defeated Rashid by more than 41,000 votes, thereby indicating the loss of support for the Sharif family in what has been a family bastion.
Kulsoom, who recent had undergone a cancer surgery in London, has been recuperating in the British capital. Her daughter Maryam Nawaz managed her campaign in her absence.
The election to the parliamentary seat was seen as a test for the PML-N party also because it comes ahead of the general election in Pakistan next year.
After the result, Maryam said people have “dismissed conspiracies” against him.
She said, “Thank God million times. This was PML-N vs All. The people have rejected the verdict of the Supreme Court. They have proven that Nawaz Sharif is still their prime minister, regardless of the SC verdict,” she said.
The ruling PML-N blamed the military establishment for picking up around 60 active office-bearers from the seat to influence the by-election.
“During the last two days our active chairmen of union councils and workers of NA-120 have been picked up by those forces who had been active since the ouster of my father. Our party men were taken into custody to influence the outcome of the NA-120 by-poll. But by the grace of God we won despite all the odds,” Maryam added.
Rashid, for her part, complained of rigging and said that she would not accept the decision till the court decides on “fake” 29,000 votes registered in NA-120.
The constituency, with more than 320,000 registered voters, has thrice elected Sharif as Pakistan’s prime minister since 1990. Sharif had won the National Assembly (NA) seat for the first time in 1985.