By Memphis Barker
The ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan has raised fears of instability in the country by planning to install his politically inexperienced wife in the parliamentary seat he was recently disqualified from.
Nawaz Sharif is set to nominate Kulsoom Nawaz, his spouse of 47 years, as the ruling party’s candidate to fill the vacant NA-120 seat in Lahore, according to local media reports.
The provocative move comes as Mr Sharif plans to take to the streets to protest his ousting by the Supreme Court at the end of last month.
Mr Sharif’s attempt to retain control of the country via his wife is unlikely to please Pakistan’s military, which has long objected to his desire to improve relations with India.
“They,” wrote columnist Cyril Almeida, using a common code-word for the army, “came all this way, shook up the system, only to see Nawaz quickly find a way to stay in control?... It doesn’t look sustainable”
"Kulsoom's nomination is desperate," a spokesman for the opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, told The Telegraph. "It will be foiled by voters in the constituency," which Mr Sharif won with a hefty majority of 40,000 votes in 2013.
Kulsoom Nawaz has not previously held political office. Although she led a campaign against the imprisonment of Mr Sharif in 1999, following a military coup, as first lady she has largely kept silent. Officials in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) say that Mr Sharif is also considering his daughter as a candidate.
Previously seen as Mr Sharif’s political heir, Maryam, 43, has gained exposure handling communications in the prime minister’s office, and through bolshy use of her personal Twitter account, which has 3.4m followers.
However, she faces a forthcoming trial over allegations she assisted her father in laundering money to purchase four flats in Park Lane. Both she and her father deny the allegations.
Mr Sharif’s reported plan would rip up a previous agreement designed to keep peace in the PML-N, whereby his brother would have shuffled into the vacant seat, and from there swiftly into the role of Prime Minister. Shahbaz Sharif, a notorious workaholic who sleeps four hours-a-night, represented a popular choice within the party after transforming infrastructure in Punjab province during several stints as chief minister. “Choosing his wife over his brother will deepen the crisis of credibility for Nawaz Sharif,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a columnist. “How many metros has Mrs Nawaz Sharif built?”
On Wednesday Mr Sharif is set to drive in a ‘cavalcade’ from Islamabad, the capital, to his home town of Lahore, where the 67-year-old will address a large rally of supporters.
The ex-PM is expected to develop his claim that a “conspiracy”, led by the army, was behind his disqualification following a trial linked to revelations in the Panama Papers.
On Monday night, a bomb exploded along Mr Sharif’s planned route, injuring 24 people and prompting the former premier’s team to announce he would not leave the confines of his bullet-proof vehicle on the journey south.