Ousted Pakistan PM’s wife wins his seat in Parliament

Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, takes a picture with a supporter at a rally in Lahore recently. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2017

Ousted Pakistan PM’s wife wins his seat in Parliament

ISLAMABAD: Ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz will replace him in Parliament after she won a by-election in his Lahore constituency.
Official results declared on Monday showed that Kulsoom, of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), won 61,745 votes against 47,099 for her main opponent, Dr. Yasmin Rashid of Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), in Sunday’s poll. There were more than 40 other candidates.
The constituency is a historical stronghold of the PML-N, and the former prime minister has represented it since the mid-1980s. However, his wife’s majority of 14,646 was well down on the 39,345 majority secured by Sharif at the last election in 2013.
“This should be a worry for PML-N because this constituency is supposed to be its stronghold,” the political analyst and columnist Zahid Hussain told Arab News. “The marginal win of 7.5 percent is not a very good omen.”
The two main parties had turned the by-election into a referendum on the Supreme Court’s decision on July 28 to bar Sharif from public office because he failed to disclose in his nomination papers that he had been employed by the Dubai company Capital FZE, opening the way for his prosecution on corruption charges.
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.
Last Friday, the court dismissed a petition from Sharif to reconsider its verdict and withdraw references to corruption.
Hussain, however, rejected suggestions that the furor influenced voting.
“It doesn’t have a major impact on election results,” he said. Both main parties used the Panama Papers verdict to mobilize public support, Hussain said. The PTI campaign centered on the corruption scandal to break the ruling party’s vote bank, while PML-N used it to win sympathy over Sharif’s disqualification, calling it an “insult to voters.”
The defeated candidate, Dr. Rashid, complained that an additional 29,000 voters had been registered without PTI having access to the list. She is likely to challenge the matter in court.
While Kulsoom Nawaz is in London being treated for throat cancer, her daughter Maryam conducted a vigorous campaign on her behalf. Addressing party supporters on Monday, she said her parents hand asked her to thank the people of the constituency.
“I congratulate you PML-N tigers,” she said. The tiger is the party’s political symbol.
“You took the brunt of the attack against Nawaz Sharif,” she said. “The forces which were surrounding Nawaz Sharif have been defeated.”
In a jab at the Supreme Court, she said the people had rejected a “court verdict based on injustice.”
“Your 60,000 votes equal six million votes and it was because of your love for Nawaz Sharif that these forces failed today. The decision of the people is that our prime minister is Nawaz Sharif.”


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

Updated 11 min 34 sec ago

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
  • Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country since Jan.

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.