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Kulsoom Nawaz to the rescue again

Updated August 12, 2017


LAHORE: Kulsoom Nawaz on Friday resolved one of the many mysteries the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is faced with when she filed nomination papers to contest the by-election from NA-120 — a constituency more than just home to her illustrious husband Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.

She will take on the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Dr Yasmeen Rashid in what is already being dubbed as a contest between raw ambition and vigour on one side and experience and poise on the other.

The Pakistan Peoples Party’s very spirited Faisal Mir is also in the run in the by-election scheduled for Sept 17.

The constituency, Lahore-III, fell vacant after the Supreme Court disqualified then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case.

This constituency falls in downtown Lahore, where some of the most prominent landmarks related to governance and popular rule are located. From the Punjab Assembly to the Civil Secretariat, one moves on to icons of the city’s cultural and social life spread along the Golden Mile on The Mall and beyond. It covers pre-Independence localities such as Sanda, Shamnagar, Chauburji, Islamapura, Santnagar, Rajgarh, Riwaz Garden, Mozang, Temple Road, Lake Road, Lower Mall, Anarkali, Lytton Road, Queens Road, Hall Road, Cooper Road, Mayo Hospital, Urdu Bazaar, Bilal Gunj, Ravi Colony, Kasurpura, Khokhar Town and Mominpura.

PTI’s Yasmeen Rashid and PPP’s Faisal Mir are among other candidates for the Sept 17 contest

With the population living here having an over 75 per cent literacy rate, a majority of the residents belong to the middle class. Kashmiri and Arain are major communities though Pathan and Baloch people are also present here in good numbers. Traders for being in large numbers in the area are likely to be an important factor in the poll outcome. It is also the venue for bar politics as well as a frequent haunt of anyone and everyone desiring to hold a protest demonstration.

NA-120 — previously known as NA-95 — has been an out and out Nawaz Sharif constituency since he won from here in 1985. In a remarkable manifestation of how central the constituency has been to Mian Sahab’s life and career, adjacent to the Gowalmandi area where the Sharif family had settled, the NA-120 boasts the school and the college a young Nawaz went to.

After he rose in politics under the tutelage of his father Mian Sharif and with guidance from the then Punjab governor Ghulam Jilani, Mian Sahab acted for many years as an unchallenged leader of the Punjab Assembly, which is also situated in NA-120. He later passed on the charge of Punjab to an equally ‘unbea­t­able’ Shahbaz Sharif who had earlier followed his elder brother to the St Anthony’s School on Lawrence Road and to the famous Government College.

The original NA-95 included Fleming Road, where the first industrial unit of the Sharif family was located. NA-120 is also home to the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, 90 The Mall, from where the affairs of this powerful province are run.

The PML-N has never lost the seat since 1985. However, Nawaz Sharif could not contest from here twice between 1985 and 2013 — in 2002 when he was in exile in Saudi Arabia after Gen Musharraf’s coup, and in 2008 when his papers were rejected by the then returning officer and he had to field his replacement.

In the 1985 non-party elections, Nawaz Sharif defeated Jamaat-i-Islami-backed Syed Asa’ad Gilani by securing around 35,000 votes — double the number secured by Mr Gilani. The PPP had boycotted those polls but returned in 1988 to give Mian Sahab whatever little competition it could manage.

From the platform of anti-Bhutto parties’ alliance, the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, in 1988, Nawaz Sharif got around 50,000 votes and surpassed the PPP’s Arif Iqbal Bhatti by a margin of 13,000.

As a nominee of the same alliance in 1990 polls, he defeated retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan, from whose party — Tehreek-i-Istiqlal — he had started his political career back in 1978.

In 1993, he fought as a PML-N nominee and defeated PPP’s Zia Bakht Butt with a lead of around 24,000 votes. The winning margin increased to almost 40,000 when he defeated PPP’s Hafiz Ghulam Mohayuddin in the 1997 election and his party grabbed two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

In the May 2013 general election, Nawaz Sharif beat the PTI’s Dr Yasmin Rashid with a margin of around 40,000 votes. The firebrand Dr Rashid did however manage to get 50,000 votes — by far the highest by a candidate contesting against Nawaz Sharif in the constituency.

Dr Rashid has been campaigning with a lot of energy for the Sept 17 by-poll. She now knows she is up against generally a very calm looking Kulsoom Nawaz who will be banking on the Sharif appeal and her own reputation for rescuing the family from tough positions. She has done it before, when she bailed out her husband and in-laws from Gen Musharraf’s captivity following the 1999 coup.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017