Published: Sun, September 17, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Voting underway in Pakistan by-election

Voting underway in Pakistan by-election

Deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves to his supporters upon arrival to address a rally in Lahore, Pakistan on August 12, 2017.

The NA-120 seat in Lahore is said to be a stronghold of the Sharif family.

The timing of Kulsoom's health scare (she is now being treated for lymphoma or throat cancer), could not have come at a worse time.

Sharif, who has held office as prime minister on three occasions but never completed a full term, has already been summoned by an anti-corruption court in a corruption case on September 19.

Mr Sharif has always denied any the allegations, but the Supreme Court has dismissed petitions seeking a review of its decision.

Yasmeen Rashid's campaign focused on the message that the judiciary found Nawaz Sharif unfit to hold public office because he is "dishonest", and her victory would signal people want a change.

"Does this country want democracy?"

Maryam Nawaz insists "the whole family" is supporting her in the campaign for her mother, but other said the absence of Shahbaz will hurt the campaign. She bagged 52,000 votes in general election of year 2013 while Nawaz Sharif won by bagging 92,000 plus votes.

She said the PML-N was all alone in this fight, but defeated all conspirators.

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Portraying the by-election as a kind of referendum on the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif has its dangers for the party, however. His party has not lost the seat since it began contesting elections in 1985.

The other, Milli Muslim League, is linked to Hafiz Saeed, alleged by the U.S. and India to be the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks (which he denies) and thought to have close links to the Pakistani intelligence services. "This is a way for the people to show whether they still stand with the PML-N after the verdict".

Meanwhile, Sharif, his wife and many of his close aides were almost silent as they waited out the election thousands of miles away in London. "Women going around acting like men".

Sheikh Yaqoob, a candidate from the Milli Muslim League, a new political party backed by Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ut-Dawa (JuD), is also standing.

The Election Commission had stopped him from displaying Saeed's picture on his banners and posters.

Independent survey says Yaqoob may bag up to 10,000 votes.

One view is that such parties can help encourage radicals to move away from violence to politics.

She told the BBC: "They're not there for the elections for themselves - they're there for other reasons". It could also play a role in determining Maryam Nawaz's future political career.

"PTI would be very happy if the margin ended up being small".

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