Shehbaz’s absence casts shadow on Lahore by-polls
LAHORE: While the odds are tipped in favour of Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife of Pakistan’s ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, in the bye-election to his former parliamentary seat in Lahore on Sunday, there are some who have predicted resistance from other parties.
One contender seems to be Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreeke-insaf (PTI), which says its candidate, Yasmin Rashid, is well respected in the constituency.
A trip through the area, however, clears up any doubts. Buntings and posters of Sharif and his family have flooded the area.
This is Nawaz Sharif territory, and much work is attributed to him. For the past two decades, the area has seen unprecedented development under Sharif and his brother, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The timing of Kulsoom’s health scare (she is currently being treated for lymphoma or throat cancer), could not have come at a worse time.
Kulsoom was a safe bet for the Sharifs. Voters in the NA 120 constituency are familiar with her and are keen that she returned to Pakistan ahead of polling day on Sunday. In her absence, Kulsoom’s daughter Maryam Nawaz is running the campaign. She has held numerous rallies and street corner meetings and expects the PML-N to pull through.
Ironically, it is her own party that doesn’t seem to be helping. Local media reports suggest that chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza are apparently ensuring they stay out of Pakistan till the by-polls are over.
Maryam Nawaz insists “the whole family” is supporting her, but other said the absence of Shahbaz will hurt the campaign.
In all this, Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-dawah has made its appearance with the presence of an independent candidate whose campaign posters feature the image of the Lashkar-e-taiba founder. Analysts said the right wing vote bank continues to cast its ballot in favour of the PML-N but the Jud’s political debut is a significant factor.
Poster featuring Kulsoom Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz (centre), with Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif on the extreme right.