Embattled former premier Nawaz Sharif's son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar amassed a massive show of support in Rawalpindi before he finally surrendered to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials two days after being sentenced to jail in the Avenfield corruption reference.
Safdar, who led a rally of supporters for hours before reaching Rawalpindi's Sixth Road, was arrested in the evening and taken to NAB's regional office in the twin cities.
According to DawnNewsTV, PML-N workers who were part of the convoy earlier resisted attempts to arrest Safdar, with some of them laying down in front of the vehicle carrying Safdar. They chanted pro-PML-N slogans as Safdar was taken into custody and taken away in a NAB vehicle.
Safdar's wife and PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz praised him for "bravely" surrendering to NAB.
"Safdar sahib is a soldier of Mian [Nawaz Sharif] sahib. I am happy that he has offered his arrest bravely, like a lion," she told reporters.
An accountability court on Friday had sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years, his daughter Maryam to seven and his son-in-law Safdar to one year in jail in the Avenfield reference. Nawaz and Maryam are currently in London but have vowed to return to Pakistan on July 13.
Safdar, who has been in Pakistan, 'went underground' after the verdict. The PML-N media cell earlier on Sunday (today) shared an audio recording of Safdar saying he would surrender to authorities today on the directives of the party leadership.
Shortly after, he arrived in the capital where he gathered support from a number of PML-N leaders and supporters and took to the streets of Rawalpindi's Liaquatbagh area.
PML-N leader Chaudhry Tanveer was quoted by DawnNewsTV as saying that the party's Rawalpindi leaders kicked off the rally from Liaquat Road.
Rally on Pindi's roads
As Safdar called upon PML-N leaders and workers to reach Liaquatbagh to show support, the gathering swelled, with hundreds of supporters pouring into the streets to show their support.
Supporters surrounding his vehicle chanted slogans of "Dekho, dekho, kon aya? Sher aya, sher aya" (look who is here, the lion is here), "Respect the vote", and "Go on Nawaz Sharif, we are with you".
Safdar himself was perched atop a double-cabin vehicle and briefly addressed the media gathered at the scene. He was accompanied by PML-N leaders Chaudhry Tanveer, Malik Abrar, Shakeel Awan and others.
"Today we have to decide how the country will be run," Safdar told the media. "I am surrendering myself in order to set a foundation for democracy."
He called upon the nation to support Nawaz Sharif in his fight for the 220 million citizens of the country.
Meanwhile, a NAB team had reached the vicinity of the rally to arrest Safdar.
The team, comprising six vehicles, had contacted the Islamabad inspector general for assistance and requested a large contingent of police to help deal with the crowd.
"Action will be taken against anyone who tries to hinder Safdar's arrest," NAB Deputy Inspector Mehboob Alam warned at the time.
Despite reaching Safdar's convoy, NAB authorities reportedly had a hard time getting to him as his car was surrounded by enthusiastic supporters, DawnNewsTV reported. NAB officials reportedly wanted to wait until Safdar surrendered so as to avoid any sort of reaction or resistance.
An insider told DawnNewsTV that a NAB official and DSP Raja Taifoor were both sitting in Safdar's vehicle.
'Honour demands that I surrender'
Earlier today, in an audio message sent to journalists by the PML-N's media cell, Capt Safdar said he would surrender himself to authorities today because "honour demands it".
The decision for him to turn himself in, after he was sentenced to one year in jail for abetment in the Avenfield reference, was made by the party's leadership, he said.
He added that he wished to be arrested in an area other than Mansehra, his hometown, or Hazara Division.
Safdar was to contest the upcoming polls on a National Assembly and provincial assembly seat from Mansehra. In the light of the verdict, both Safdar and his spouse cannot contest elections, while Nawaz has already been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court in the Panamagate case.
NAB on Saturday said that arrest warrants for Safdar had already been obtained, and a team had departed for Mansehra, where he was last seen on Friday, to arrest him.
However, he remained "underground" and was reportedly looking to consult his lawyer to get a stay order.
The PML-N's Mansehra President Zafar Mehmood told Dawn earlier that Safdar would either surrender to NAB or avail himself of pre-arrest bail from the court in Lahore on Monday.
Nawaz and Maryam both are set to return to Pakistan on Friday, July 13, exactly one week after their conviction, before expiry of the 10-day time limit set for filing of an appeal against the NAB court's verdict in the Islamabad High Court.
In a defiant press conference following the announcement of the verdict on Friday, Nawaz vowed to return to Pakistan to face prison, saying that if the punishment for "demanding respect for the vote is jail, I am coming to face it".
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