Lahore: Pakistan’s embattled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam are set to arrive in Lahore today to face arrest in a corruption case, amid high security and a massive crackdown on his party activists.
The Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz leader and his daughter stopped over in Abu Dhabi today on their way to Pakistan from London. Sharif and Maryam are expected to land at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport at 6.15 PM (local time) via Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways flight EY243, the Dawn reported. They will be arrested on their arrival at Lahore airport from where they will be taken to Islamabad by helicopter so that they can be sent to Adiala jail for imprisonment.
In a video message, tweeted by Maryam, the former premier urged his followers to stand with him and “change the fate of the country”. “The country is at a critical juncture right now,” Sharif, 68, said. “I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years [in prison] and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away. But I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you.”
The two PML-N leaders are returning to Pakistan to face a prison sentence handed out on July 6 by an accountability court in the Avenfield properties case, one of the three corruption cases against him following the Panama Papers scandal. Sharif and Maryam have been sentenced to 10 and 7 years in jail respectively. Sharif, who was in London with his wife and children when the verdict was announced, said he is returning to Pakistan from London to fulfil his pledge to “honour the vote”.
Addressing a press conference in London with Maryam by his side, Sharif had said he has decided to return to the country “despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes”. “Is there any Pakistani who has had three generations of his family go through an accountability process only to find out that no corruption was ever done?” he asked during the presser. He also criticised the court’s decision to sentence his daughter to a seven-year term in jail, saying those who did so “did not even remember in their hate what stature daughters have in Pakistan”.
Maryam took to Twitter to post pictures of the scenes in London before their departure. In one picture, the father and daughter are seen bidding a teary farewell to Kulsoom Nawaz, who is said to be comatose and admitted at a London hospital. Over 300 PML-N workers and leaders have been detained in Pakistan in a massive crackdown on the party activists in Lahore ahead of the arrival of Sharif.
Around 10,000 police officers have been deployed across the city to maintain law and order. Lahore police has also placed containers on the city roads leading to the airport. A narrow passage has been left for motorists where police have been deployed for checking. The anti-graft body – National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – chairman Javed Iqbal has ordered taking all necessary measures to arrest Sharif and Maryam upon their arrival at the airport.
He has also formed a 16-member team to arrest them and shift them to Adiala Jail Rawalpindi after producing them at the accountability court that sentenced the father-daughter duo last week. According to sources, the Cabinet Division has allocated two helicopters – reserved for the prime minister – to NAB to shift Sharif and his daughter to jail from the airport. Sharif, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court last year in the Panama Papers case, is now the supremo of the PML-N. PML(N) leaders are mobilising the party workers to reach at the airport in a large number.