Reuters International

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks during a joint news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 12, 2015. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File photo

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By Abu Arqam Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's ruling party swept local elections in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, according to unofficial results on Friday, giving the premier a boost after months of pressure from his opponents.

Sharif has faced criticism since documents released as past of the Panama Papers data leak showed his children owned several off-shore companies and used them to buy properties in London.

He denies wrongdoing, as do his children.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party won 31 seats in the region's 41-seat assembly in Thursday's vote, said Tariq Mahmood Butt, spokesman for Pakistani Kashmir's election commission.

"This win is proof that our voters have completely rejected our opponents' incessant diatribe against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif," said the party's regional chief, Raja Farooq Haider.

"It is not merely a win. It is a landslide," Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, an increasingly influential member of her father's party, said on her Twitter page.

The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir was split between India and Pakistan in 1948, after they fought a brief war over it. It remains at the heart of animosity between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

The win by Sharif's party in the region will not have any direct bearing on Pakistan's stand on the Kashmir dispute or on its dealings with India.

Sharif stressed the need to improve relations with India in his successful campaign for the last general election in 2013 but the powerful army, which oversees security and foreign policies, is seen as wary of making big concessions quickly.

The criticism of Sharif from his political opponents and occasional strains in his relations with the army have raised questions about prospects for his government.

Pakistan's next general election is due in 2018.

(Writing and additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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