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Pakistanis are voting today for the parliamentary seat where the ailing wife of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif is contesting to show that support for the family was undiminished and that the people have rejected the Supreme Court's decision to send its leader home. The NA-120 seat in Lahore, said to be the stronghold of the Sharifs, fell vacant on July 28 after the apex court disqualified Sharif in the Panama Papers case. A total of 44 candidates, including cricket-turned- politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf candidate Yasmin Rashid, are in the fray. Sheikh Yaqoob, a candidate from the Milli Muslim League, a new political party backed by Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ut-Dawa (JuD), is also standing. The voting started at 8 am and it will continue till 5pm. The counting will begin soon after the voting concludes. The Pakistan Army personnel have been supervising the polling process. The voters' turnout that was relatively low in the morning started picking up in the afternoon. Long queues were witnessed at several polling stations. Some voters complained that the process inside the polling stations is taking too long. Besides some of the polling stations are without electricity. Some also complained that their votes were not in the polling station concerned. A clash between PTI and ruling PML-N workers was also reported. However, no injury is reported.
Police intervened and dispersed the workers. As the supporters of the PML-N, PTI and PPP are gathered at their camps, JuD's Yaqoob visited different polling stations along with a good number of JuD supporters. Independent survey says Yaqoob may bag up to 10,000 votes. The JuD and Falah-i-Insaniat activists openly campaigned for Yaqoob and also set up two mobile hospitals in NA-120. The Election Commission had stopped him from displaying Saeed's picture on his banners and posters. Saeed, the JuD leader, is the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and carries a USD 10 million bounty on his head. He is under "preventative detention". Imran Khan asked the residents of NA-120 to cast their votes and give verdict against the 'Godfather' (Nawaz Sharif). "Lahories will elect my mother, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, in the court of people and reject the court's decision against my father," Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Sharif, said, adding that today's verdict is on disqualification of her father. Kulsoom is in London where she is undergoing treatment for her throat cancer. In her absence, Maryam had run her mother's campaign. A close contest is expected between Kulsoom and Rashid. There are over 320,000 registered voters in the constituency. Maryam had said yesterday that the people will cast the vote in favour of Begum Kulsoom with a pledge that they will not allow anyone to insult the ballot. Rashid says her contest is not against Kulsoom but the federal and provincial governments of the PML-N and the Sharif family. "Besides spending billions of rupees, state machinery is used to woo voters in the face of blatant violation of the Election Commission's code of conduct," she said. This constituency has thrice elected Sharif as the country's prime minister since 1990. Sharif had won the National Assembly (NA) seat from the area for the first time in 1985. He vacated it and became Punjab chief minister.
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