LAHORE: Though Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif along with his son MNA Hamza is apparently ensuring they stay out of the country till the NA-120 by-poll, his niece Maryam Nawaz insists “the whole family” is supporting her in the campaign for her mother Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. An official told Dawn that Shahbaz Sharif would be returning from London on Thursday (today) morning and leaving for Turkey probably the same day.

“The chief minister will return from Turkey on Sunday evening (after the polling in NA-120 is over),” he said.

Shahbaz had extended his stay in London in connection with a health conference there, but the sources believe he did not want to be blamed by the opposition for use of state resources by Maryam in the campaign for her mother who is in London for treatment of lymphoma (throat cancer).

Before Maryam kicked off NA-120 campaign, Shahbaz’s son Hamza, who is considered his deputy in the province, left for London, allowing ‘full liberty’ to her to look after the affairs in the constituency.

“Hamza too will return once the election in NA-120 is over,” a source said.

Hamza had been supervising all by-poll campaigns in the province during the last four years, except that of NA-120.

“I am representing the whole Sharif family. My father (Nawaz Sharif) and uncle (Shahbaz Sharif) are out of country but they are supporting me. I had an experience of running the campaign for my father in NA-120. Now my mother’s campaign is being run by the people of the constituency,” she told reporters after meeting with Jamiat Ulma-i-Pakistan president Pir Ijaz Hashmi here on Wednesday.

Maryam reacted sharply when asked about use of state resources in the by-poll campaign. “Which state resources are used...tell me. Do not find excuses and compete with us,” she retorted.

The source, however, said there had been standing instructions to all his ministers from Shahbaz to extend ‘full cooperation’ to Maryam in the campaign.

Not only federal ministers (of her media team) like Talal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz and Marrium Auranzeb, and MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik are accompanying Maryam in the campaign, some provincial ministers including Bilal Yasin, Khwaja Imran Nazir and Zaeem Qadri, besides MPAs Hina Pervaiz Butt, Majid Zahoor and Waheed Gull are also on the forefront.

The Election Commission has served notices to Federal Commerce Minister Pervaiz Malik, Punjab Food Minister Bilawal Yasin and MPA Majid Zahoor for violating its code of conduct but they appeared defiant.

NISAR’S REMARKS: Maryam Nawaz chose not to comment on the former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar’s remarks about her in a TV interview.

“I respect Chaudhry Nisar for being a senior party leader. He is also an old friend of my father. What he said (about me) is his style,” Maryam said to a question.

Commenting on Maryam’s political career, Nisar had said she had not yet stepped into politics and could not be accepted as party leader. He had also said she was no match for slain premier Benazir Bhutto.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017

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