Pakistanis vote for ouster premier’s seat in Parliament

Pakistani army soldiers help polling officers carry election materials received from the election commission office in Lahore on Saturday, for the by-election of the parliamentary seat held by Pakistan's ousted former prime minister. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2017

Pakistanis vote for ouster premier’s seat in Parliament

LAHORE: Pakistanis voted on Sunday in a by-election for the parliamentary seat in Lahore made vacant by the disqualification from public office of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The two main candidates were Sharif’s wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Dr. Yasmin Rashid from Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The NA-120 constituency, with 321,786 registered voters, is a stronghold of the ruling PML-N. The result will be declared on Monday.
Neither of the two women were able to vote. Kulsoom Nawaz is in London recovering from surgery and Dr. Yasmin is not registered in the constituency.
The two main parties turned the by-election into a referendum on the Supreme Court’s decision on July 28 to bar Sharif from public office.
The PML-N urged voters to express their support for Sharif through the ballot box, while the PTI asked them to reject a political leader linked to corruption by the court. The ruling party views itself as a populist movement, and losing the by-election would damage its position.
The allegations against Sharif stem from the Panama Papers, documents leaked in 2016 from the law firm Mossack Fonseca. They suggest that Sharif’s family owns millions of dollars worth of property and companies around the world through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands.
After the Supreme Court verdict, Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar were summoned by the National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan’s anti-graft watchdog. They refused to appear, pending a hearing on their petitions of appeal to the Supreme Court to reconsider its verdict and withdraw references to corruption.
A five-member judicial bench rejected the petitions last Friday, “for reasons to be recorded later.”
Sharif’s party believes a conspiracy against the former prime minister, and not corruption charges, led to his dismissal. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Saturday that although they accepted the verdict, history would judge Sharif’s removal differently.
Anusha Rahman, the minister for information technology, said she was disappointed by the verdict. “Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification should have been reconsidered,” she said, because he had never been paid a salary by Capital FZE.
However, the political analyst Qamar Cheema told Arab News: “The Supreme Court had enough evidence, plus Nawaz Sharif and family did not provide sufficient evidence to vindicate themselves.”
Cheema said the PML-N was likely to make a comeback in the 2018 general election, but “Nawaz may try to politicize the Supreme Court” if he found himself cornered.


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.