NA-120
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GVS Analysis |

In the aftermath of Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification, the Sharif family is struggling to preserve their political heritage and control over PMLN. The upcoming by-elections of NA-120, the seat from which Nawaz was elected in 2013, may well decide the fate of the Sharif dynasty and especially it’s touted ‘heir-apparent’, Maryam Nawaz.

Nawaz Sharif’s ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who family circles claim has been diagnosed with cancer and currently seeking treatment in London, is running for the seat with her campaign in the hands of her daughter, Heir Apparent: “Maryam Nawaz”

The preponderant majority of analysts believe that the odds favor Kulsoom, after all the NA-120 constituency, carved out of NA-95 and NA-96 in 2002 by Musharraf’s government, is the old neighborhood in which Nawaz grew up. He has successfully won the seat 5 times, from 1985 to 1997 and then again in 2013 (he did not contest during 2002 and 2008). In 2002 he was in self-exile in Saudi Arabia and in 2008, he was not qualified due to a court decision – which was subsequently overturned by Iftikhar Chaudhry led Supreme court, in an unusual case of reprieve.

While the Sharif family may appear to be strongly positioned to win, the stakes are still high. If Kulsoom secures the seat, she will act as a Sword of Damocles, hanging constantly over the newly anointed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Kulsoom’s main adversary, the formidable Dr. Yasmin Rashid, has been raising concerns over the conduct of the PML-N campaign in the run up to this crucial battle. Reportedly, 16 key MNAs and MPAs including ministers and senators have been campaigning aggressively in the constituency breaching the Election Commission’s prescribed code of conduct. The Punjab government headed by Shehbaz Sharif is said to have pulled out all the stops in this campaign, sparing no expense in supporting Maryam’s efforts.

Read More: NA 120 Elections: Test Case for Election Commission of Pakistan?

While the Sharif family may appear to be strongly positioned to win, the stakes are still high. If Kulsoom secures the seat, she will act as a Sword of Damocles, hanging constantly over the newly anointed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, thus preserving Nawaz’s influence. However, a loss would leave Nawaz hanging in the wind, without any leverage over Abbasi, and on his own party PML-N, but it will also spell certain doom for Maryam Nawaz’s fledgling political career.

NA-120 by-elections present a do or die situation for Maryam on multiple levels (winning and the margin of winning) while Dr. Yasmin has very little to worry about.

Maryam has yet to prove her political prowess to elements inside the party who are keenly observing her every move. She has shoved aside her cousin Hamza Shehbaz, son of CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif and an experienced campaigner, seizing the reins of her family’s future for herself. She appears to be adamant on establishing herself as her father’s successor but the “heir-apparent” has yet to garner the respect and influence her father wielded.

Read More: Ch. Nisar’s TV interview provokes PMLN backlash; says “Maryam is a…

Ex-Interior Minister and estranged Nawaz confidant Chaudhry Nisar, who still possesses considerable influence within the party, in a recent TV interview called Maryam a mere “child”. She has also antagonized her Uncle Shehbaz Sharif’s family by sidelining his son Hamza.

Only winning would not do for Maryam. She must manufacture a landslide victory reminiscent of her father’s forty thousand vote lead in 2013 in order to assert herself and retain her father’s eroding influence in the party. On the other hand, Dr. Yasmin has little to lose. A successful gynecologist, she has previously rejected a seat offer by PTI in the Senate, indicating her indifference of influence in government. Dr. Yasmin only has to close the margin of the loss after which she will be able to claim that Maryam won due to the foul play of the Punjab government, PTI will hence declare a moral victory.

NA-120 by-elections present a do or die situation for Maryam on multiple levels (winning and the margin of winning) while Dr. Yasmin has very little to worry about.

While this race may make for juicy analysis and debate, the irony of the current scenario is lost on many. Maryam Nawaz is indicted in three separate NAB references which have been submitted to an accountability court. She is also the central figure in the ‘Calibri’ forged trust deed scandal. An indicted individual accused of forgery running a crucial campaign with the complete support of the Punjab government and bureaucratic machinery is akin to making a parody out of democracy. Despite audaciously spurning democratic norms, Maryam continues to portray herself as a champion for democracy and is accepted as a leader by many simple folks on whom the irony is lost.

Research and writing by Muhammad Azam; with additional inputs by the GVS news desk. 

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