Kulsoom Sharif, the wife of ex-Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has won a key parliamentary seat, which was left vacant after the ouster of her husband by the Supreme Court amid a corruption scandal in July.
Official results from the Sunday by-election are yet to be announced, but officials with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who also tallied the numbers, said Kulsoom secured about 53.5 percent of the vote, with the party’s majority reduced from about 61 percent in the 2013 general election.
Local media also said she garnered 61,254 votes to win the crucial parliamentary seat in the eastern city of Lahore, 14,188 more than her main rival Yasmin Rashid, the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s candidate.
The PTI has alleged voting irregularities.
Analysts were monitoring the Sunday vote as a test of support for the influential and scandal-hit Sharif family ahead of the 2018 general election.
The win helped the PML-N demonstrate that support for the Sharif family is still strong despite the Supreme Court’s removal of the former premier, who has kept control of the party.
Sharif’s wife did not campaign in person ahead of the vote as she is receiving treatment for cancer in London.
“This is not an ordinary victory,” said Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, who has been at the helm of the PML-N campaign for her mother and who some party leaders see as a future leader of the faction.
Maryam, who was addressing jubilant PML-N supporters, said, “You have defeated not only people who were in the field but also those who are invisible,” making reference to elements in Pakistan’s powerful military, which is allegedly opposed to the Sharif family.
She claimed dozens of PML-N activists were blindfolded and picked up from their homes at night, while others received threatening phone calls from unknown numbers during the campaign.
“This victory is a message to the forces hatching conspiracies against Nawaz Sharif that there would be only rules of people and democracy,” added Maryam.
In an interview with Reuters before the vote, Maryam had hinted at the military’s involvement in her father’s ouster.
Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s top court for a failure to declare a monthly salary, equivalent to around $2,700, from a company owned by his son.
The ruling prompted Sharif to voluntarily leave office on July 28, bringing his third term in power to an end. The Supreme Court has rejected petitions seeking a review of its decision despite Sharif’s repeated denials of the allegations.
The scandal stems from the so-called Panama Papers leaks in 2016 which appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.