Wife of ousted Pakistani PM to seek his Parliament seat

Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 12 August 2017

Wife of ousted Pakistani PM to seek his Parliament seat

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: The wife of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will contest a special election for the parliamentary seat he was forced to vacate after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding office, party officials said.
Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif will be the candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party in the by-election to be held in about 45 days, Sharif adviser Asif Kirmani told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore.
The announcement comes as Nawaz Sharif leads a “homecoming” caravan to Lahore that has drawn thousands of supporters. Sharif on Thursday described his removal last month by the top court over unreported income as “an insult to the mandate of 200 million voters.”
The verdict marked a political victory for opposition leader Imran Khan, a former cricket star who led a campaign demanding Sharif’s wealth be investigated. Khan himself is facing a court case alleging undeclared assets.
The decision to put forward Sharif’s wife is in keeping with Pakistan’s tradition of dynastic politics and also indicates the former premier will likely remain involved behind the scenes.
Sharif’s ruling party last week elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as prime minister.
Party leaders have suggested Abbasi will hold office until elections due next year, a reversal of earlier indications that Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz, would seek the vacant seat and later take over as premier.
There is also talk in the party ranks that Kulsoom herself could become prime minister once elected to Parliament, but a Sharif aide said it was too early to speculate.
Kulsoom, who has never run for office, will be canvassing for votes in Sharif’s political stronghold inside Lahore’s Walled City, where her husband has never lost.
“We will, God willing, win this seat with a big majority,” Muhammad Safdar, Sharif’s son-in-law who is also a member of Parliament, said as he stood beside Kirmani.
Kulsoom has always stood by her husband throughout a political career that has seen him elected and then ousted as prime minister three times.
In 2000, when army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf removed Sharif in a military coup, Kulsoom led protests in Lahore.
In one of the protests, she locked herself in a car for several hours, refusing to let police arrest her. Police had to tow her car and then lift it with a crane to drive miles back to her home.


Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

Updated 15 August 2020

Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

  • Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio is still endemic
  • Since Jan., Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health officials on Saturday launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio as part of efforts aimed at eliminating the crippling disease amid a steady decline in fatalities and infections from the coronavirus, which had recently overwhelmed the country’s fragile health system.
The anti-polio campaign, which began amid tight security, aims to vaccinate as many as 34 million children across Pakistan, including former Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan, a government statement said.
Medical workers participating in the drive against polio were seen adhering to social distancing regulations as they wore face masks and gloves while going house-to-house to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.
“I am hopeful that parents will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign,” said Faisal Sultan, an adviser to the prime minister on health issues.
According to Rana Safdar, who heads the government’s polio program, similar campaigns against polio will be launched in October, November and December.
Earlier Saturday, Pakistan’s military said Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, praised Islamabad’s success in the fight against coronavirus in a telephone call to the country’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. It said Gates also discussed the resumption of the drive against polio.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. The nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped Pakistan and other places worldwide fight the disease.
Pakistan had hoped to eliminate the disease by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But there was a surge in new cases the following year. Since January, Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country, including the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban and other militants regularly stage attacks on polio teams and security forces escorting them because they claim the anti-polio drive is part of an alleged Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence. Attacks on polio teams increased after it was revealed that a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign was used as a ruse by the CIA in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011 in Pakistan.
Pakistan halted the drive against polio in March and resumed it last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19.
On Saturday, Pakistan reported only 9 new deaths from the new virus in the past 24 hours, increasing the country’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 6,162. So far, Pakistan has reported 288,047 cases and officials say about 93% of the patients recovered since February, when the country reported its first confirmed case.