ABU DHABI/LAHORE, JULY 13, 2018 19:27 IST
The Sharifs will be sent to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after producing them before the accountability court.
Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with his daughter Maryam were arrested on July 13 on their return to the country after they were convicted in a corruption case, less than two weeks before the country goes to polls.
Sharif and Maryam were shifted to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi in separate armoured vehicles escorted by police.
According to jail manual, they can be medically examined at jail hospital.
Maryam is expected to be moved later to Sihala Rest House, which has been declared as a sub-jail.
Initially it was said that the duo will be shifted by a helicopter, but the idea was dropped due to darkness.
The plane carrying Sharif and Maryam landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Airport at 9.15 p.m. IST, nearly three hours late from the scheduled arrival.
The Etihad Airways flight EY243 arrived in Lahore from Abu Dhabi. Earlier they flew to the UAE capital from London, where Sharif’s ailing wife Kulsoom is battling for her life.
Officials from Pakistan’s anti-graft body, who were present at the airport, took them into custody as they came out of the plane.
The two were convicted on July 6 in the Evenfield properties case linked to the Sharif family’s ownership of four luxury flats in London.
Both Sharif, 68, and Maryam, 44, have been sentenced by an accountability court to 10 and seven years in prison respectively.
The National Accountability Bureau and the caretaker government had announced that they would be taken into custody upon their arrival at the airport. A helicopter is present at the airport to take them to Islamabad from there they will be sent to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after producing them before the accountability court.
The Sharifs’ return could shake up an election race increasingly marred by accusations Pakistan’s powerful military is working behind the scenes to skew the contest in favour of ex-cricket hero Imran Khan, who describes Sharif as a “criminal” who deserves no support.
On the afternoon of July 13, thousands of police personnel had been deployed in the central city of Lahore and shipping containers placed along main roads, which could be used to block protesters from moving towards the airport, where Mr. Sharif is expected to land.
Mobile phone service was cut off by mid-afternoon in the city, as thousands of Sharif supporters began a march to the city centre in defiance of a ban on public gatherings.
Mr. Sharif decried the tactics ordered by the caretaker government that took over in June ahead of the general election, as Pakistan’s constitution requires.
“What credibility will these elections have when the government is taking such a drastic action against our people and this crackdown is taking place all over the country?” Sharif told Reuters at the airport in Abu Dhabi as he waited for a connecting flight to Lahore.
Local police official Naveed Shah told Reuters his current orders did not include restricting people’s movements, but that could change when supporters of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party take to the streets.
Provincial authorities suspended mobile phone and internet services in Lahore in a bid to “control law and order situation”.
The country’s media regulator warned local news channels to abstain from airing statements “by political leadership containing defamatory and derogatory content targeting various state institutions specifically judiciary and armed forces”, the regulator said in a statement.
Sharif is returning from Britain one week after an anti-corruption court handed him a 10-year jail term over the purchase of luxury London flats and sentenced his daughter and political heir to seven years in prison.
Sharif alleges the military is aiding a “judicial witch-hunt” against him and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. The party’s past five years in power has been punctuated by the civil-military discord that has plagued Pakistan since its inception.
The military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half its history since 1947, has denied interfering in modern-day politics. It plans to place 371,000 soldiers around polling stations so there can a “free and fair” elections, an army spokesman said this week.
“Nawaz really believes this is about democracy and his legacy,” Musadik Malik, a Sharif ally and former PML-N Cabinet Minister, told Reuters. “That is why he is willing to lose 10 years of his life over this.”
Sharif’s PML-N expects a groundswell of support as he returns from London, where his wife Kulsoom is critically ill and undergoing cancer treatment.
To prevent PML-N workers staging a hero’s welcome on the streets, authorities said they will arrest the father and daughter upon landing and transport them to the capital Islamabad by helicopter, local media reported.
Sharif’s return comes at a time of dwindling fortunes for his party, which a year ago was considered a run-away favourite to retain power.
Recent opinion polls suggest PML-N is losing its lead nationally to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of arch-rival Mr. Khan, whose anti-corruption message has resonated with many Pakistanis.
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. Maryam was convicted for concealing ownership of the apartments. They both deny wrongdoing.