WITH Lahore put on lockdown amid protests and election rallies, former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were arrested just after their flight landed at Allama Iqbal International Airport, flown to the Islamabad airport on a private plane before being shifted to Adiala jail in a convoy of security vehicles late Friday night.
The Sharifs, who were sentenced in absentia by an accountability court of Islamabad in Avenfield properties case, were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau as they returned from London via Abu Dhabi to galvanise support for the beleaguered Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) before the July 25 polls.
Judicial magistrate Wasim Ahmed executed the warrants issued by Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court of Islamabad in which the convicts were informed about their sentences announced on July 6. While the district administration declared the Sihala police rest house a sub-jail, the caretaker law ministry issued a notification declaring that the accountability court will conduct trial in Flagship Investment and Al Azizia Steel Mills references in Adiala jail. It was unclear whether they would be kept at Adiala jail or shifted to the Sihala sub-jail.
• Many hurt as PML-N supporters, police clash • Shahbaz leads rally amid Lahore lockdown • No candidates held, says caretaker Punjab govt • Trial in other references to run in prison
Earlier, Lahore witnessed a lockdown as police manned all its entry points. Sitting in a bulletproof car, which was driven by Hamza Shahbaz, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif led the rally from Lohari Gate in the afternoon. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, party senators and other senior leaders also joined the rally. Feeling excited and satisfied over the number of people who participated in the rally, Shahbaz Sharif said: “Today a sea of people turned up in the rally and gave a verdict for the July 25 polls. I am thankful to the people of Lahore for coming out in large numbers to prove that the accountability court’s decision against Nawaz Sharif was unjust.”
However, the rally was still on the Faisal Square (Mall Road) when Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz arrived at Allama Iqbal International Airport.
Around 15,000 policemen and contingents of paramilitary force of Rangers were deployed in the vicinity of the airport, while containers with barriers and barbed wires were placed at around 50 spots to stop PML-N supporters from proceeding towards the airport. Violent clashes between law enforcers and PML-N supporters broke out at a few places where the latter had managed to reach after crossing the hurdles. Nearly 20 policemen and two dozen party supporters were injured in the clashes.
Caretaker home minister of Punjab Shaukat Javed while addressing a hurriedly called press conference claimed that the PML-N workers were allowed to go right up to the boundary of the airport. He said the (Shahbaz Sharif-led) rally was illegal in the context of the code of conduct yet it was allowed to travel up to Abdullah Gull Interchange from where the airport premises starts. He denied that the Punjab government detained any political leader or intended to do so.
PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rasheed, however, said state institutions were being made controversial due to allegedly partial decisions against the PML-N. He said party candidate Qamarul Islam Raja was picked up in Rawalpindi. He asked the caretaker chief minister Dr Hassan Askari to face the media and own that PML-N workers were arrested on the CM’s orders.
In a video message posted earlier on social media by his daughter, Mr Sharif seated on a plane said: “Pakistan is at a decisive juncture. And I have done whatever I could do. I know that I have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and I will be directly taken to jail. But I want to tell the Pakistani nation that I am doing this for you. I am giving this sacrifice for the next generation, for Pakistan’s [better] future. Therefore, support me as much as you can, walk with me, join hands with me and change the country’s destiny. Such moments don’t come often. This is only my message to the nation.”
Later speaking from a lounge at the Abu Dhabi airport to journalists in another lounge over the phone, Mr Sharif said: “What credibility will these elections have when the government is taking such drastic action against our people and this crackdown is taking place all over the country?”
“The caretaker government is not taking all these actions on their own; someone is forcing them to take these actions. The caretaker government of Punjab should resign or step down as the people of Punjab have no faith in it.”
He also spoke about press freedom, encouraging reporters not to bow down to pressure. “If the media gets scared then what will be left?”
Meanwhile, the district administration of Islamabad has declared “the premises of Sihala police training rest house as a sub-jail for keeping the convicted prisoner Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif ex prime minister and Maryam Nawaz, who have been arrested by the NAB authorities with immediate effect and till further order”.
The notification further states: “The security will be provided by the ICT police.”
However, both the convicts were taken to the Adiala jail where they were informed about the July 6 order of accountability court.
According to the order, Nawaz Sharif was awarded 10 years and Maryam seven years imprisonment on July 6. The court order states: “Accused/convicts have been arrested vide order July 13, 2018, it is allowed that said accused/convicts be handed over to jail superintendent in presence of Wasim Ahmed subdivisional magistrate of Islamabad.”
“This is to authorize and require you, the said superintendent, to receive the said accused/convicts into your custody in the said jail, together with this warrant and their carry the aforesaid sentence into execution according to law,” the order read.
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2018