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Nawaz Sharif is still proving to be a strong adversary for Imran Khan
In Punjab (Pakistan) cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who is also the Chief of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), is called as the Kejriwal of Pakistan by the masses in general, as well as by the blue-collar segment and is held responsible for the ouster of Nawaz Sharif from the office of Prime Minister in connivance with the Pakistan army.

However, Nawaz Sharif could not be deterred by his removal from office as his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz defeated (Lahore, September 17, 2017) Dr Yasmin Rashid of Imran Khan-led PTI in the parliamentary by-election in NA-120 in Lahore, the seat which had become vacant after Nawaz Sharif's ouster from office.

Earlier, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan People's Party (PPP)  and Milli Muslim League (MML) had jointly tried to stall the nomination of Kulsoom Nawaz first in the Punjab High Court and then in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on charges that she did not appear in person for filling the nomination papers, which was rejected by both the courts. While dismissing the petitions, Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court had asserted (Islamabad, September 18, 2017) after the by-election results were unofficially known, that the mandate of the people's vote should be respected.

While Nawaz Sharif's spouse Kulsoom Nawaz got 61,745 votes, PTI candidate Dr Rashid could secure only 47,099 votes. Significantly, two candidates backed by religious parties finished third and fourth respectively and won together about just 11 per cent of the votes. While Sheikh Azhar Hussain Rizvi, supported by Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLK) secured 7,130 votes, Yakub Sheikh, who was supported by Hafiz Saeed launched Milli Muslim League (MML) party got 5,822 votes. Meanwhile, Faisal Mir of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) could secure only 1,414 votes, causing worries to his central leadership for party's existence in the Punjab (Pakistan) province.   

Since Lahore by-election was held within two months of Nawaz Sharif's removal from office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) was virtually in disarray due to infighting, the by-election was seen as a test for Nawaz Sharif's political standing and PML (N)'s prospects in forthcoming general elections to be held in June 2018. 

Despite the fact that PML (N) was not on a strong wicket due to certain factors, including its candidate Kulsoom Nawaz was not physically present  during the elections as she was undergoing throat cancer treatment in London; Nawaz Sharif was also absent from Lahore being with his ailing wife in London; Nawaz Sharif's brother and Punjab (Pakistan)'s Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz, who is also member of National Assembly were most of the time in London, apparently to avoid canvassing for party candidate, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz.

In the absence of national level Punjabi leader of the PML (N), it had become more difficult for Nawaz Sharif to ensure his wife and party candidate Begum Kulsoom Nawaz's victory in the Lahore by-election. Moreover, party's senior most leader after Nawaz Sharif and the former Interior Minister, Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan refused to canvas for the party candidate and his unabated criticism of party functioning under Nawaz Sharif as well as his refusal to accept Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of Nawaz Sharif had added to the woes of Nawaz Sharif during the by-elections.

However, it was Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who single handedly fought the by-election on behalf of her ailing mother and left no stone unturned to ensure the success for her party and humiliation of her arch rival Imran Khan, chief of rival PTI party. After the by-election results, Nawaz Sharif lauded (London, September 17, 2017) lauded his daughter Maryam Nawaz and his party workers for successfully managing Begum Kulsoom Nawaz's election campaign.  

Defeat of Imran Khan's candidate at the hands of Nawaz Sharif's wife was virtually taken as his personal defeat in the political circles of Pakistan. Imran Khan's launching a nation-wide three-year-long voracious political attack on Nawaz Sharif and calling him as the most corrupt politician of Pakistan and repeatedly demanding his resignation could not stop Nawaz Sharif-led PML (N) victory in the Lahore by-election. Moreover, Imran Khan also failed to encash Supreme Court's unfavourable verdict on Panamapapers against Nawaz Sharif as well as infighting in the ruling  PML (N),  for the victory of his candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid in the by-elections. However, Imran Khan termed the 30 per cent decrease in votes secured by PML (N) as victory of the Supreme Court.

 Imran Khan also claimed that the situation in next general elections would be "quite different" as awareness was developing in the masses and his party PTI would win the next general elections in 2018. Meanwhile, PTI had requested the Pakistan Election Commission to withhold the result of the by-election till the settlement of the issue of validity of 29,000 'unverified', voters on the list who had neither family numbers nor Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) numbers. Imran Khan too had been critical of Election Commission and even threatened not to contest the next general elections in 2018 under the present Election Commission.

Although the ruling PML (N) had won the by-election in Lahore after removal of Nawaz Sharif from office, but it was almost a close race. While radical backed parties viz; Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLK), and  Hafiz Saeed's Milli Muslim League(MML) made their presence felt in Pakistan's national politics  by indirectly participating in the by-election, the routing of PPP was a matter of concern for party's leadership, which did not seem to be interested in investing  its time in Punjab (Pakistan) where the PPP is now as good as a dead-horse.

Surprisingly, neither Asif Zardari nor his son Bilawal Bhutto visited Lahore during the by-election to address public gatherings and left their party candidate Faisal Mir in a lurch.

However, it was Imran Khan and his PTI which failed to hit the weak points of PML (N) such as ruling of Supreme Court against Nawaz Sharif, absence of PML (N) candidate Kulsoom Nawaz from the election scene, infighting in PML (N) and cold relations between families of Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahabaz Sharif, in its favour to defeat the PML (N) in the by-elections.

Moreover, Imran Khan and his party also failed to mobiles voters in their favour as it remained depended mostly on its hardcore supporters. However, the only solace for PTI was that it could narrow the defeat gap as compared to general elections held in 2013.

Despite winning the by-election and rupturing  Imran Khan's over confidence, Nawaz Sharif must be a worried man due to shrinking vote bank in his favour as his ailing wife could bag just 61,745 votes as compared to her opponents' 47,099, whereas in 2013 elections, Nawaz Sharif had secured 91,683 votes compared to his rival's 52,354 ballots. Moreover, Nawaz Sharif's PML (N) also failed to raise a sympathy wave during the by-election.

While Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan might have realized that complacency and excessive confidence go against the party's interest and both the parties have much work to do before the next general elections in June 2018; terrorist backed politicians must be celebrating their efficacious entrance into national politics through 'Lahori Gate', after excessively spending funds meant for the charity. 

Notably, the Lahore by-election also witnessed the revival of use of mosque for political campaigning after 1977 when mosques were prominently used for political movements in Punjab (Pakistan) by right wing Islamic parties during the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's era.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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