What if Kulsoom Nawaz doesn’t win from NA-120?

Kulsoom Nawaz
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The crucial battle for Pakistan’s National Assembly seat from Lahore NA-120 will be fought, on Sept 17, between PTI’S Dr. Yasmeen Rashid and PMLN’S Kulsoom Nawaz. After dithering and deliberating for two weeks, the PML-N on last Thursday decided to field former first lady, wife of Nawaz Sharif, Mrs. Kulsoom Nawaz, for the by-polls which are slated to be held in September. The seat is up for grabs ever since the disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This electoral contest has assumed unusual significance for the politics of Pakistan, of PML-N and more importantly: Sharif dynasty.

While talking to the media, Dr. Yasmeen expressed apprehensions over N-League attempting to carry out pre-poll rigging in the constituency. She confidently said that all efforts will go in vain.

Earlier, it was announced that CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif will enter national assembly from this constituency to become Prime minister of Pakistan replacing his brother, disqualified PM, Nawaz Sharif. But soon it became clear that he was hesitant to leave his position as the Chief Executive of the province. Shahbaz – loyalists like Interior Minister, Rana Sanaullah, argued – should not risk his hold on Punjab to become PM for merely few months. Others pointed out that surrendering control over Punjab’s bureaucracy, while cases like Hudibya Paper Mills are being reopened by NAB, under Supreme Court orders will be a risky gamble as governmental influence will be needed to manage the effective legal defense.

Shahbaz’s exit leads to the former First Lady filing her nomination papers. Despite not being in mainstream politics, Mrs. Nawaz, symbolic eastern wife, commands immense respect within the party and is credited for leading the campaign to secure the release of her incarcerated husband after the military coup of 1999. But in 2017, her fighting the election from NA-120 has assumed unprecedented significance for the future of Sharif dynasty – and her husband.

Dr. Yasmin Rashid, of PTI, filed her nomination papers on 11th August. She had lost to former premier Nawaz Sharif in the 2013 elections by about 40,000 votes. Her campaign is up and running in the constituency with she herself taking to people in the streets. While talking to the media, Dr. Yasmeen expressed apprehensions over N-League attempting to carry out pre-poll rigging in the constituency; she mentioned that ECP has announced three thousand new votes in the constituency (NA-120) since December 2016, which looks suspicious because the total increase from June 2013 till December 2016 was also three thousand so sudden increase of three thousand votes is strange. She nevertheless expressed her determination to fight on all conspiracies.

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Why did Shahbaz Sharif decide not to contest elections from NA-120?

Nawaz, immediately after his disqualification, was quick to announce that his brother Shahbaz will be the next PM. Many suspected that to be a dishonest move, meant only to keep the party united. The proposal was also opposed by many within the Punjab cabinet. Rana Sanaullah stated that the elevation of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to the National Assembly will be dangerous since there are sufficient political and legal grounds against this step of the ruling PML-N.

A practicing lawyer himself, Rana Sanaullah said he had also informed the leadership that the apex court’s verdict could be overturned as an “error of judgement”, provided a review petition against it was heard as an appeal by a larger bench, because “receivables” could not be considered assets under the Income Tax Act.

In an all-important consultative meeting in Murree last week, Rana reiterated that “the focus of the party will divert from its development agenda to the electoral game. While talking to media Rana stated that “we should not force upon ourselves a 45-day electoral disturbance after one was imposed on us last Friday”.

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A practicing lawyer himself, Rana Sanaullah said he had also informed the leadership that the apex court’s verdict could be overturned as an “error of judgement”, provided a review petition against it was heard as an appeal by a larger bench, because “receivables” could not be considered assets under the Income Tax Act.

The entire bureaucracy and the police in Punjab are in the firm grips of the incumbent Chief Minister who will use his influence to resist every effort to hold him accountable for money laundering and similar charges since time has proven that the premiership could not save Nawaz from impartial accountability. 

However, sources from within the ruling party revealed that this might not be the actual reason of Shahbaz Sharif’s reluctance. According to sources, Nawaz Sharif’s refusal (more specifically resistance of Maryam and Kalsoom) to nominate his nephew Hamza as the chief minister of Punjab had annoyed Shahbaz, who ultimately chose not to give up the post in the province because of uncertainty and lack of trust within the family.

Experts also believe that the pending NAB reference against the incumbent Chief Minister of Punjab deterred him. According to them, Shahbaz Sharif is better placed to face the Hudabiya Paper Mills Case and the upcoming NAB references from the vantage point of his current position. The entire bureaucracy and the police in Punjab are in the firm grip of the incumbent Chief Minister who will use his influence to resist every effort to hold him accountable for money laundering.

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Kulsoom Nawaz’s nomination papers challenged

But in fresh developments, the nomination papers of Kulsoom Nawaz, wife of former premier Nawaz Sharif and contestant of ruling party for NA-120 by-election, have been challenged in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by Ishtiaq Chaudhary of Pakistan Awami Tehreek.

The petitioner has taken the stance that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is registered in the name of Nawaz Sharif, who has been ousted by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan, and the name of a disqualified person’s party cannot be used in the election.

Furthermore, it is requested that Kulsoom Nawaz has not affixed her Iqama with the presented documents, therefore, her nomination papers should be rejected. Others point out that she is dependent on Nawaz, a careful scrutiny of assets might lead to her disqualification.

If her nomination papers are rejected, problems will exacerbate for the Sharif family – more specifically for the family of Nawaz Sharif.

Read more: Nawaz’s motorcade fiasco: Cold-blooded murder of a child or his martyrdom?

Kulsoom Nawaz’s Nomination for NA-120: Political Significance for Sharif family?

Kalsoom Nawaz has no political profile except being the wife of Nawaz Sharif. Her nomination has confirmed the worst fears of political analysts and opposition who have repeatedly argued that Sharif family treats PML-N not as a political party but merely as a private limited company; for the advancement of family’s interests. For an important political contest, Nawaz has not been able to find anyone except his spouse – who for all practical purposes has only been a ‘house wife’.

If a situation arises where PM Abbasi starts to assert himself as the real prime minister then Nawaz Sharif can use his wife, Kulsoom, as a safe rallying point, inside parliament, for de-seating PM Abbassi through a “Vote of No Confidence”. Whether situation comes to it or not is debatable but the fact that it will be possible will turn Kulsoom Nawaz into a sword of Damocles hanging, by a thread, over PM Abbassi’s head.

But her nomination on deeper examination may appear to carry a more sinister plot. Political Pundits believe that there are multiple purposes for nominating the former first lady for NA-120 by elections. The first purpose according to them is that after her expected victory from NA-120, Ms. Kulsoom will be elected as the head of the ruling party. This will enable the Sharif family – or more specifically Nawaz Sharif – to maintain a firm grip over the parliamentary party.

But another objective of this move – perhaps the real objective – is to keep a check on the incumbent Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. If a situation arises where PM Abbasi starts to assert himself as the real prime minister then Nawaz Sharif can use his wife, Kulsoom, as a safe rallying point, inside Parliament, for de-seating PM Abbassi through a “Vote of No Confidence”. Whether situation comes to it or not is debatable but the fact that it will be possible will turn Kulsoom Nawaz into a sword of Damocles hanging, by a thread, over PM Abbassi’s head.

Political analysts also believe that Ms. Kusloom’s presence in the parliament, as a monitor over PM Abbassi, will be used to influence the upcoming NAB investigations against her husband and children.

Read more: Disqualified Nawaz Sharif’s road journey to Lahore-Part 2

What if Kulsoom Nawaz loses or is disqualified by ECP?

The chances of Ms. Yasmeen Rashid of PTI defeating Ms. Kusloom in this all important by-elections are rare. Not only that this constituency historically belonged to PML-N and Sharif family, but the federal and provincial government are expected to utilize all material, and bureaucratic resources, at their disposal to prevent this from happening. However, given the uncertain politics prevailing since the Supreme Court decision, the threat of Ms. Kulsoom’s disqualification still looms large.

If Kulsoom Nawaz is knocked out, Nawaz Sharif will lose his grip on the party. A vacuum will be created which might be filled by his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif or several factions may vie for power and control. NA-120 will thus decide the fate of PMLN and Nawaz Sharif. 

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the final list of candidates will be issued on August 26 and the by-poll will be held on September 17. Till then, the nation has to wait for the outcome of the petition filed against Ms. Kusloom Nawaz. However, if things turn out differently than planned by Nawaz Sharif, then the defeat of good wife Kalsoom will practically be the end of Nawaz ‘s hold on PML-N.

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PML-N is already exhibiting signs of disintegration. The cracks were visible in the infamous GT Road Yatra of the ousted premier. Experts attribute the absence of large crowds, especially across Potohwar, to these divisions. If Kulsoom Nawaz is knocked out, Nawaz Sharif will lose his grip on the party. A vacuum will be created which might be filled by his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif or several factions may vie for power and control. NA-120 will thus decide the fate of PML-N and Nawaz Sharif.

1 COMMENT

  1. NA-120, A battle ground between PMLN & PTI: Given the situation, it will not be too easy for Madam Sicilian Mafia to win from NA 120 against PTI provided pre-poll or post poll ‘rigging’ in the constituency is foiled by her opponent.
    Nevertheless the fate of Madame Sicilian Mafia’s win will be depending upon SC’s decision on review petition filed by Mr. Sicilian Mafia and will be deciding factor

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