Polling was underway on Sunday amidst tight security in the NA-120 by-polls where the ailing wife of Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif is contesting to provide a narrative to the ruling PML-N that the people have rejected the Supreme Court’s decision to send its leader home. The NA-120 seat in Lahore, said to be the stronghold of the Sharifs, fell vacant on July 28 after the apex court disqualified Sharif in the Panama Papers case.
The voting started at 8 am and it will continue till 5pm. A total of 44 candidates are in the fray. The Pakistan Army personnel have been supervising the polling process. The counting will begin soon after the voting concludes. “For the first time in the history of Pakistan, Biometric Voter Verification Machines are also being tested in the Constituency. Some 30,000 voters will be polling their votes on biometric machines,” Dawn reported.
A close contest is expected between Kulsoom and cricket-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid. There are more than 320,000 registered voters in the constituency. Kulsoom is in London where she is undergoing treatment for her throat cancer. In her absence, Maryam Nawaz had run her mother’s campaign.
Maryam had said on Saturday that the people will cast the vote in favour of Begum Kulsoom with a pledge that they will not allow anyone to insult the ballot. Rashid says her contest is not against Kulsoom but the federal and provincial governments of the PML-N and the Sharif family. “Besides spending billions of rupees, state machinery is used to woo voters in the face of blatant violation of the Election Commission’s code of conduct,” she said.
This constituency has thrice elected Sharif as the country’s prime minister since 1990. Sharif had won the National Assembly (NA) seat from the area for the first time in 1985. He vacated it and became Punjab chief minister.