LAHORE: A week after having been convicted in the Avenfield properties reference, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam are expected to return to Pakistan today and begin their jail sentence.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and his daughter departed from London late Thursday and have presently reached Abu Dhabi, from where they are expected to reach Lahore around 6pm.
NAB chief to chair meeting today
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has disclosed that it has arranged two helicopters, expected to shift the father-daughter duo to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi as soon as they land.
Moreover, NAB has deployed two teams each at Lahore and Islamabad airports for the purpose.
NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has warned that strict action will be taken against anyone who obstructs the arrest of PML-N leaders. The PML-N, however, has claimed that it will only take out a peaceful rally to the airport to welcome its leader.
The chairman has also issued directions that the bureau will follow court orders and has summoned an emergency meeting in this regard today.
PML-N preparations, workers’ arrests
Caretaker Punjab home minister told Geo News Thursday night that representatives of federal institutions will arrest the PML-N supremo from inside the airport.
After condemnations by the PML-N leadership regarding the arrest of scores of workers in the past few days, the minister claimed that only 50-100 PML-N workers have been arrested for violating the Election Commission of Pakistan’s code of conduct.
He claimed that only those political workers involved in criminal cases are being detained, along with those who may cause disturbances during the July 25 election.
With PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s insistence that the party’s peaceful march to welcome its ‘Quaid’ will go as planned today, the crackdown against party workers continues across Punjab where dozens of workers and leaders have been arrested.
In Bahawalpur, former state minister for education and interior Balighur Rehman and party leader Javed Gorchani in Rajanpur have been arrested.
Talking to Geo News, the Punjab home minister said as far as he knows, the PML-N has not applied for permission to take out its ‘welcome rally’ today — a necessity under the election rules.
With Section 144 in place across Punjab, the gathering of 10 or more people has been banned already.
Keeping in a view the volatile situation, the Lahore traffic police have issued a special plan so commuters do not get caught up in the PML-N rally.
Moreover, containers have been placed at various roads and cross-sections, and roads leading to the airport are expected to be blocked later today to deter the PML-N rally.
Airlines have asked passengers travelling abroad to reach the airport at least six hours earlier.
Begum Kulsoom’s health
Nawaz and Maryam have been in London since June 14 to tend to Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, who has been under treatment for cancer there since August last year and recently saw her health deteriorate further.
However, hours before the father and daughter were to leave London, there was a slight good news for the Sharif family: “First time in 30 days, Ami opened eyes for a few seconds. Don’t know if she saw or registered us. Still not conscious and on the ventilator. Prayers solicited,” tweeted Maryam.
‘Goodbyes are hard’
Moreover, prior to their departure, Maryam said on Twitter, “Told my kids to be brave in the face of oppression. But kids will still be kids”.
“Goodbyes are hard, even for the grownups,” she added.
Nawaz was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped a £8 million fine (Rs1.3 billion) in the Avenfield case last Friday whereas Maryam received an eight-year sentence with a £2 million fine (Rs335 million). Maryam has also been barred from contesting the July 25 election.
A total of three references were filed by NAB against the Sharif family last year in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case.
With the Avenfield case having been decided, the Al Azizia and Flagship references against Nawaz remain to be concluded by the accountability court.