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Asia

Wife of ousted Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif wins by-election viewed as test for dynasty

The wife of ex-Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif has won a by-election for his old seat. The vote was viewed as test for the PML-N party following a Supreme Court decision in July to dismiss Sharif.

The wife of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday won a by-election for her husband's old seat, in a vote viewed as a referendum on a Supreme Court decision that forced Sharif to step down over a corruption scandal.

Kulsoom Nawaz picked up 53.5 percent of the vote in the empty Lahore seat for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), beating out the candidate of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party who won 41 percent, according to unofficial results.

"This victory is a message to the forces hatching conspiracies against Nawaz Sharif that there would be only rules of people and democracy," said Sharif's daughter Maryam at a victory rally. "Today people have given their verdict over the (court) verdict."

Maryam has led the campaign for her mother, who is in London for cancer treatment.

Sharif was forced to step down in July following a Supreme Court ruling disqualifying him from public office over a corruption scandal that emerged from the Panama Papers.

Watch video 01:29

Sharif steps down after Supreme Court ruling

Opposition loses but sees vote gain

PTI leader and former cricketer Imran Khan, who led the charge in forcing the Supreme Court to investigate the Sharif family's offshore wealth and property, had hoped to capitalize on discontent to win the open seat in Sharif's stronghold of Lahore.

He has accused Sharif's brother Shahbaz, the head of the Punjab government, of abusing state funds to help the PML-N.

The vote was viewed as a test for PML-N ahead of elections scheduled for next year.

Compared to the last general election in 2013, PML-N lost seven percent in Sunday's vote and the PTI gained six percent in the constituency. Pakistan's election commission will announce the official results later this week.

Sharif, who was twice prime minister in the 1990s before being ousted in a coup in 1999, has had strained relations with the military. Maryam has hinted media attacks on Sharif and the Supreme Court decision were organized by the powerful military, which has toppled multiple governments since independence 70 years ago.

Watch video 02:00

Candidate with terror links contests ousted PM Sharif's seat in parliament

Militant-linked party contends race

The election was also significant because of Muhammad Yaqub Sheikh, a US designated terrorist. Sheikh won four percent of the vote for the new Milli Muslim League, which is backed by the Jamaat-ut-Dawa (JuD) charity.

Hafiz Saeed, the founder of JuD, is a US designated terrorist with a $10 million (€8.4 million) bounty on his head. JuD is considered by the United States to be a front for the Lashkhar-e-Taiba militant group accused carrying out the 2008 terrorist attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai.

Lashkhar-e-Taiba leads militant attacks on Indian controlled Kashmir and is officially banned in Pakistan, although Indian and western intelligence believe it is permitted by Pakistan's ISI intelligence service. 

cw/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

 

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