Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, daughter Maryam arrested in Lahore

PML-N workers protest outside a police station PML-N workers protest outside a police station
Steven Clarke | 14 July, 2018, 02:56

Disgraced former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif's flight has just touched the ground in Lahore and Sharif and his daughter Maryam have been taken into custody by Pak Rangers and NAB officials.

Before his return, however, Pakistani security forces launched a crackdown on the party to head off a confrontation at the airport.

Their swift departure prevented PML-N workers staging a hero's welcome on the streets of Lahore, where Sharif's brother, Shehbaz, led between 10,000 and 20,000 party supporters on a march in defiance off a citywide ban on public gatherings ordered by the caretaker government that took over in June, as Pakistan's constitution requires in the lead-in to an election.

Thousands of supporters of Mr Sharif have already converged on Lahore International Airport to welcome him when his flight lands on Friday evening.

In a televised appeal to supporters from London earlier this week, Sharif said he was not afraid of prison and asked people to vote for his party.

Addressing a rally, he said: "How will the Muslim Leaguers go to the airport to receive Nawaz Sharif?"

Sharif returned late Friday from London along with his daughter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges, anti-corruption officials said. The party's past five years in power has been punctuated by the civil-military discord that has plagued Pakistan since its inception.

The opposition Pakistan People Party (PPP) also alleged "pre-poll rigging" this week, but did not specifically name the armed forces. The military denied the accusations, and said its assistance had been requested by Pakistan's election commission. The army will deploy 350,000 security personnel to polling stations throughout the country on election day. "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. He describes Sharif as a "criminal" who deserves no support.

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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said on Friday that the Supreme Court has declared him "Saadiq" and "Ameen".

Sharif was ordered jailed after failing to explain how the family acquired the London flats in a case stemming from 2016 Panama Papers revelations that showed they owned the apartments through off-shore companies.

Sharif's son-in-law is now serving his one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in Britain that the court said were bought with illegally acquired money. They both deny wrongdoing.

The three-time Prime Minister was ousted from office a year ago after a corruption investigation. Many PML-N lawmakers have also defected to Khan's party.

PML-N has also had internal divisions.

Nawaz Sharif has called for a "mass gathering of the people".

PML-N leaders say authorities have begun a crackdown against union council leaders, the street-level party workers who bring out people on the streets, detaining hundreds of workers over the last 36 hours. "Will they tell their children that they went to welcome the thief who had looted billions of rupees from the country?" The first bomb that killed four people exploded in the northwest near the election rally of a senior politician from an Islamist party who is running for parliament from the northwestern town of Bannu.

The MMA is expected to challenge Khan's PTI in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the upcoming polls.

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