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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Wife of ousted Pakistani PM to stand for his parliament seat

Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif's candidacy indicates change of earlier plan to have Mr Sharif's brother replace him 

Women activists of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chant slogans as they wait for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during a rally in Rawalpindi on August 10, 2017. Farooq Naeem / AFP
Women activists of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chant slogans as they wait for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during a rally in Rawalpindi on August 10, 2017. Farooq Naeem / AFP

The wife of ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif will contest the parliamentary seat he was forced to vacate after the supreme court disqualified him from holding office, party officials said.

Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif will be the candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party in the by-election to be held in about 45 days, Sharif adviser Asif Kirmani told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore.

The announcement comes as Mr Sharif leads a "homecoming" caravan to Lahore that has drawn thousands of supporters. On Thursday he described his removal last month by the top court over unreported income as "an insult to the mandate of 200 million voters".

The verdict marked a political victory for opposition leader Imran Khan, a former cricket star who led a campaign demanding Mr Sharif's wealth be investigated. Mr Khan himself is facing a court case alleging undeclared assets.

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The decision to put forward Mr Sharif's wife is in keeping with Pakistan's tradition of dynastic politics and also indicates that the former premier will remain involved behind the scenes.

Mr Sharif's ruling party last week elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as prime minister.

Party leaders have suggested Mr Abbasi will hold office until elections due next year, a reversal of earlier indications that Mr Sharif's younger brother, Shahbaz, would seek the vacant seat and later take over as premier.

There is also talk in the party ranks that Kulsoom herself could become prime minister once elected to parliament, but a Sharif aide said it was too early to speculate.

Mrs Sharif, who has never run for office, will be canvassing for votes in her husband's political stronghold inside Lahore's Walled City, where he has never lost.

"We will, God willing, win this seat with a big majority," said Muhammad Safdar, Mr Sharif's son-in-law who is also a member of parliament.

Mr Sharif's wife has stood by her husband throughout a political career in which he has been ousted as prime minister three times. She led the protests in Lahore when the then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf removed Mr Sharif in a military coup in 2000.

In one of the protests, she locked herself in a car for several hours, refusing to let police arrest her. Police had to tow her car and then lift it with a crane to drive miles back to her home.

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