Pakistan’s Opposition today claimed to have gained a moral victory despite losing the crucial by- election in Lahore to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s ailing wife, saying the slim margin of PML-N’s win is in fact a defeat for the ruling party. A defiant Maryam Nawaz, who is also an accused in the Panama Papers case along with her husband and two brothers, said that voters have completely rejected the Supreme Court’s decision disqualifying her father. Kulsoom Nawaz won the NA-120 seat in a close contest with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf candidate Yasmin Rashid in an election seen as a test of support for the Sharif family after the Supreme Court dismissed Sharif from the office in the Panama Papers scandal. As the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party declared that Lahore’s by-poll was a contest between its candidate and the country’s powerful military establishment, the Imran Khan-led opposition Pakistan Tahreeki-i-Insaf (PTI) said it competed with the might of the federal, provincial and local governments and gained a moral victory. The opposition also said that the margin of PML-N victory is in fact a defeat of the powerful Sharif family. According to unofficial estimates, Kulsoom Nawaz won the election for NA-120 seat by bagging more than 61,000 votes, defeating her PTI rival Dr Yasmin Rashid with a margin of over 13,000 votes. The Election Commission of Pakistan is expected to announce the final and official result in a day or two.
In the 2013 election, Sharif won this seat by securing 91,000 votes defeating Rashid with a margin of 41,000 votes. “Shukar Alhamdolillah (thank God) a million times! This was PML-N vs All,” Sharif’s daughter Maryam said. “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 election. But by the grace of God we won despite all the odds,” she said, adding that party workers were not intimidated by military dictators in the past and they will not be scared off by such tactics today.
The ruling PML-N blamed the military establishment for picking up around 60 active office-bearers from the seat to influence the by-election. Maryam, who is being seen as a political heir to Sharif, further said that the PML-N fought the NA-120 election against the PTI and “hidden forces” that were involved in the ouster of her father. “Voters of NA-120 had given their verdict and completely rejected the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify my father,” she said. Cricketer-turned-politician and PTI Chairman Imran Khan said it was in fact PTI versus the might of the federal, provincial and local governments.
“Applaud the courage and determination with which Dr Yasmin Rashid fought NA-120 election against federal, provincial, and local governments-backed PML-N with their massive funds,” he said as he congratulated Rashid for putting up a superb fight. Rashid chided the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for its failure to establish its writ. “I will file a case in the Lahore High Court against the ECP’s failure to clarify the ambiguity over 29,000-plus votes, as well as its inability to respond to the party’s 25 petitions. The PTI will not let the official by-election result be announced till it receives the clarification over the 29,000 unverified votes,” she said.
Meanwhile, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Asif Ali Zardari said: “We will fully take part in (the) 2018 election from Punjab. The contest in NA-120 is the beauty of democracy. We are in contact with many politicians in Punjab and will reveal our cards at the right time”. Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed the review petitions filed by Sharif and his family, and ordered that corruption cases be filed against him, his children — Hussain, Hassan and Maryam Nawaz, son-in-law Mohammad Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.