LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The wife of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will contest a special election for 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 Nawaz Sharif leads a "homecoming" caravan to Lahore that has drawn thousands of supporters. Sharif on Thursday 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 Sharif's wealth be investigated. Khan himself is facing a court case alleging undeclared assets.
The decision to put forward Sharif's wife is in keeping with Pakistan's tradition of dynastic politics and also indicates the former premier will likely remain involved behind the scenes.
Sharif's ruling party last week elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as prime minister.
Party leaders have suggested Abbasi will hold office until elections due next year, a reversal of earlier indications that 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.
Kulsoom, who has never run for office, will be canvassing for votes in Sharif's political stronghold inside Lahore's Walled City, where her husband has never lost.
"We will, God willing, win this seat with a big majority," Muhammad Safdar, Sharif's son-in-law who is also a member of parliament, said as he stood beside Kirmani.
Kulsoom has always stood by her husband throughout a political career that has seen him elected and then ousted as prime minister three times.
In 2000, when army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf removed Sharif in a military coup, Kulsoom led protests in Lahore.
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.
(Writing by Asif Shahzad and Kay Johnson; Editing by Nick Macfie)