Ousted Pakistani PM Sharif, daughter arrested after arriving home

Blanche Robertson
July 14, 2018

Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were arrested on Friday after flying back to the country to face lengthy prison sentences, in a high-stakes gamble to galvanize their beleaguered party ahead of a July 25 election.

Before boarding the flight to Lahore, Nawaz posted a video message making an emotional appeal to the countrymen.

"Maryam and I are coming back to face prison and even if they send me to the gallows, we know that freedom can not be won without sacrifice".

Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gestures as he boards a Lahore-bound flight due for departure, at Abu Dhabi International Airport, UAE July 13, 2018.

"This was neither a case, nor there is a verdict". There is no case against me, there never was. A helicopter is present at the airport to take them to Islamabad from there they will be sent to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after producing them to the accountability court.

According to an airport official, the father-daughter duo surrendered before a team of the country's anti-graft body - The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) - without any resistance.

On Thursday his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who now heads the PML-N, said that hundreds of their workers and supporters had been arrested ahead of Nawaz s expected return in what he said was "naked" pre-poll rigging against their party.

Up to 8,000 police officers are set to be deployed in Lahore, according to police chief Sajjad Hasan Man. Containers could be seen blocking some Lahore roads on Friday morning, while travel to and from the airport had reportedly been restricted.

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The man said that when he cycled past a second time there was a "small cordon with a handful of police and paramedics". A vehicle has been seized by the military outside a police station in north Wiltshire.

More than 100 people were arrested in his stronghold of Lahore where he has called on crowds to meet him when he touches down from London on Friday evening.

Sharif was last week sentenced in absentia to 10 years by an anti-corruption court for failing to declare how he bought Park Lane flats in London. Maryam was sentenced to seven years of jail and fined two million pounds by the Accountability Court.

The government of Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, banned Sharif's party the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) from holding protests and announced it will also ban mobile phones for the day.

The three-time Prime Minister was ousted from office past year after a corruption investigation.

Since then, a host of his allies have been either disqualified by the courts, or face corruption cases.

Sharif has accused Pakistan's security establishment of conspiring against him ahead of the July 25 general election. Sections of the party oppose Sharif's combative approach against the army, and fear it will turn off voters in a deeply conservative and patriotic Muslim nation of 208 million people.

Earlier in the day, Sharif, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court past year in the Panama Papers case, urged his followers to stand with him and "change the fate of the country" in a video message. "The country is at a critical juncture right now", a grim looking Sharif said. I have done what I could.

Sharif's son-in-law is serving a one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in the United Kingdom that the court said were bought with illegally acquired money. "It is not easy to leave my wife on a ventilator in a hospital but I am returning along with my daughter to play our role to rid of this slavery", several media reports quoted, Nawaz, as speaking at a party conference in the ballroom of the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London's Mayfair district. Sharif denies all charges and says they are politically motivated.

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