By Muhammad Luqman
Dismissed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political party , PML (N) is facing its first major challenge in a by-election in Eastern city of Lahore on Sunday . This is being seen to be a barometre for whether he has managed to maintain support in his political heartland following his dismissal from office.
Ailing Kasloom Nawaz, the wife of Nawaz Sharif is contesting for the seat vacated by the former prime minister after his disqualification by the Supreme Court on July 28 over an omission in his parliamentary wealth declaration.
On Friday, Pakistan’s apex court rejected petitions seeking a review of its decision to disqualify Sharif, although a separate bench is still deliberating on whether the ban on holding public office is life long or for a term only.
The Supreme court also referred Sharif, three of his children and several aides to an anti-corruption court for trial on charges that he looted state wealth during his previous two terms as prime minister in the 1990s.
Campaigning in the NA-120 constituency, located in the heart of the eastern city of Lahore, has been fierce, with the PML-N chief’s daughter Maryam Nawaz –leading more than a month of rallies and campaign events.
Kulsoom Nawaz, 66, has spent much of the campaign undergoing treatment for her recently diagnosed lymphoma in the United Kingdom.
Nawaz’s party has won the parliamentary seat consistently since it began contesting elections in 1985.
According to political analysts, by-poll will be a key indicator as to whether Sharif’s dismissal has led to an erosion of support.
The NA-120 constituency, home to almost half a million of Lahore’s 11 million residents, is located in the heart of the old city, and includes the historic Lahore fort and the shrine to Daata Ganj Baksh, the city’s patron saint in addition to the densely populated areas of Islampura, Sanda, Mozang and Karim Park.
By Muhammad Luqman