Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter were heading home from London on Friday and were set to be arrested as soon as they set foot in Lahore.
The former prime minister and his daughter Maryam were sentenced to 10 and seven years imprisonment respectively for corruption. Sharif told the media he was making a sacrifice for the country by coming back and wanted Pakistan’s future to change.
They are returning from London ahead of crucial elections in Pakistan on July 25. Last week, Nawaz and Maryam were sentenced to jail by an anti-corruption court. The case against them, involving London properties owned by the Sharif family, also resulted in fines of eight million pounds for Nawaz and two million pounds for Maryam.
After the court passed its verdict, Federal Law and Information Minister Ali Zafar said the two would be arrested immediately upon arrival at any airport in the country, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn. The pair were scheduled to reach Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore on Friday evening after stopping over in Abu Dhabi.
Nawaz and Maryam returning is a boost for their Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and comes after claims the military was skewing the election in favor of former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Former militant organizations are also contesting the election in a bid to joining mainstream politics.
At a party conference in London on Wednesday, Nawaz said he and his daughter will hear the election results from their prison cells, and added the bars will be broken by the outcome. He also said that under PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s leadership, their opponents will face defeat.
Maryam said the court verdict was not unexpected, while Nawaz earlier alleged a judicial witch-hunt against him and his party was being carried out by the Pakistani military while the country suffers from rising tension between the civil government and the army.
“It is my duty as a daughter to stand by my father. However, as a Pakistani I want to see my country being free from the chains of oppression,” Maryam said at the party conference.
Sharif again denied the charges against him and claimed the judge who heard the case admitted that evidence of corruption was not found.
Maryam had been posting updates from their London to Lahore trip, trying to garner sympathy and encourage their supporters. She posted a photograph of herself bidding goodbye to her children, followed by a video of Nawaz addressing the public from the plane. She also posted photos of Nawaz visiting his wife, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer in London.
Told my kids to be brave in the face of oppression. But kids will still be kids. Goodbyes are hard, even for the grownups. pic.twitter.com/ge17Al5gfY
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) July 12, 2018
Their return has put Pakistan on a high security alert. Officials said that depending on the security situation in the capital Islamabad, the two may appear before a court on Friday. Officials plan to arrest and fly Nawaz and his daughter to Islamabad after they arrive in Lahore.
They will be held in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail, where Captain Mohammad Safdar, Nawaz’s son-in-law, is also imprisoned for corruption.
Authorities deployed more than 10,000 police in Lahore. They plan to block roads with shipping containers to stop a large rally by Nawaz supporters, who were planning to march to the airport despite a ban.
More than 300 leaders and members of the PML-N have been detained in a widespread crackdown on the party’s activists in Lahore ahead of Nawaz and Maryam’s arrival, according to local media.