LAHORE: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday arrested former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz minutes after they landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport. The father-daughter duo had returned to Pakistan from London for the first time after being convicted in the Avenfield property case.
The sentences, delivered in absentia, against Nawaz Sharif and his daughter who is widely seen as his political heir, have dealt a blow to their Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. Nawaz and Maryam were served with a legal warrant as soon as they entered Pakistan s airspace. Earlier, the PML-N supremo and his daughter made a brief stay at the Abu Dhabi airport where their flight was delayed for nearly three hours. They landed at Lahore s Allama Iqbal International Airport at 9.10 pm IST via Etihad Airways flight EY243.
They were flown to Rawalpindi in a special aircraft and the aircraft will reach Islamabad’s Benazir International Airport in 40 minutes. The government has left no stone unturned to ensure the arrest goes as smoothly as possible. The Punjab government imposed Section 144 (unlawful assembly) in Lahore.
Security was tightened across the city and roads leading up to the airport were blocked to prevent PML-N workers from reaching there. Around 10,000 security personnel were deployed throughout the city to maintain law and order. Internet and mobile services were also suspended. Nawaz was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a corruption court over his family’s purchase of luxury apartments in London, whereas, his daughter Maryam was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The ex-premier s son-in-law is currently 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 gotten money. Sharif is expected to appeal his conviction and seek bail against the 10-year jail term. Ahead of his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Sharif s PML-N workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.
In a video message reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison. The Avenfield reference is one of the three corruption references, filed by the National Accountability Bureau(NAB) on orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), which disqualified Nawaz Sharif, ousting him from premiership and finding him guilty in the Panama Paper case verdict.
The verdict came at a time when Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif were in London to see Begum Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif who has been undergoing treatment for cancer. Pakistan is to hold general elections on July 25 and Sharif’s political party is facing numerous campaign challenges. Under these circumstances, Sharif’s announcement has excited workers of his party across country.
On the other hand, some surveys suggest that Sharif’s PML-N is doing great in the run up to the elections. A survey by an independent consultant namely Gallup Pakistan put PML-N on top with 26 percent as compared to Imran Khan’s PTI with 25 percent. “PML-N will definitely gain following Sharif’s return who is undoubtedly country’s most popular and senior politician.”