She­hbaz’s ab­sence casts shadow on Lahore by-polls

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - World - Let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

TWIT­TER

Poster fea­tur­ing Kul­soom Nawaz and Maryam Nawaz (cen­tre), with She­hbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif on the ex­treme right.

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