Within minutes of touching down in Lahore on Friday, former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam, who are convicted for corruption, were arrested. Ahead of the country’s general election on July 25, Sharif said the arrest was a “very small price to pay” to save the sanctity of the vote in Pakistan, reported news agency Reuters. The duo was allowed to meet Begum Shamim Akhtar, Sharif’s mother, at the airport before boarding a special flight to the capital Islamabad to serve their sentence at Adiala jail, Rawalpindi.
On arriving at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Airport, scores of officials from the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s anti-graft body, entered the plane to arrest Sharif and Maryam, who surrendered without any resistance. In a video message posted hours before landing in Lahore, Sharif said he was aware of his impending arrest and was doing it for the country.
“The country is at a critical juncture right now. 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 Pakistani nationals to know that I am doing this for you,” he said in the video released by Maryam.
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— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) July 13, 2018
Sharif has returned to Pakistan in an effort to revitalise the party he founded, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, ahead of the election. Support for PML-N and Sharif has dwindled since Sharif was ousted as PM last July.
Also read | Why Nawaz Sharif may find it hard to bounce back
The two were provided “B” class facilities at Adiala jail, which is reserved for those who have been accustomed to a “superior mode of living”, reported PTI. Facilities include a cot, chair, teapot, lantern if there is no electricity, shelf and necessary washing and sanitary appliances. Those under this category reportedly give lessons to uneducated prisoners.
At least 70 injured in clashes in Lahore
As Sharif made his way to Lahore from London, where his wife Kulsoom is being treated for cancer, officials were cracking down on workers of the PML-N. At least 10,000 personnel were deployed across Lahore to prevent them from according Sharif a grand welcome back to the party.
Despite the heightened security and the imposition of Section 144 which bans public gatherings, Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif, led more than 10,000 workers towards the airport. At least 50 workers and 20 personnel were injured in clashes that ensued.
The case against the Sharifs
Nawaz Sharif and Maryam were convicted by an Accountability Court on July 6 of illegitimately purchasing four luxury flats on Park Lane in the heart of London. The court sentenced Sharif to 10 years in jail and Maryam to seven in the Evenfield properties case. The case was first highlighted during the Panama Papers investigation when a trove of documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca was disclosed to reveal how the rich set up offshore entities in tax havens.
The duo is likely to appeal their convictions — in the Islamabad High Court and in the Supreme Court — and seek bail. The court, however, may prevent them from leaving the country.
Poll-related violence in Pakistan
In the third incident of election-related violence this week, a suicide attack Friday killed 128 people and left 150 wounded at an election rally in Baluchistan. The bombing, which the Islamic State claimed responsibility for, is the deadliest attack in the country in at least three years, reported PTI. Baluchistan provincial assembly candidate Siraj Raisani, who was among 1000 who were at the rally, was killed. He is the second candidate contesting the election to be killed.