Pakistan’s embattled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam are set to arrive in Lahore on Friday 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 on their way to Pakistan from London. They are expected to land at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport at 6.15 PM (local time) 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, the report said.
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 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”.
Mayam 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 being treated for cancer 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.
This is being done to prevent PML-N workers from staging a hero’s welcome on the streets for the leaders. Party officials say the police have started a crackdown against them, detaining hundreds of workers in the early hours on Friday.
Recent opinion polls suggest PML-N has lost its lead nationally to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of arch-rival Khan, whose anti-corruption message has resonated with many Pakistanis.
Khan has painted Sharif as a “criminal” who has looted the state for decades, and welcomes his prison term as overdue accountability.