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LAHORE: The PML-N has announced challenging the caretaker government’s decision to hold ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Maryam’s trial in jail.

Apprehensive about the outcome of the July 25 elections, the Nawaz League has declared that it will not accept the results if polls are ‘engineered’.

Reacting to a crackdown on PML-N workers before and during the Lahore rally and FIRs against him and several other main leaders of the party, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif said the Election Commission and all ‘other institutions’ should take notice of this as it amounted to pre-poll rigging.

Shahbaz says ‘engineered’ polls won’t be accepted

“I have fear of the unknown. Only PML-N is being targeted. Seeing the tactics to push us against the wall and denial of a level-playing field in the July 25 polls if this is not stopped we will not accept the results. We will gather other political parties and give a roadmap (of protest) after the election,” Mr Sharif said at a press conference here on Saturday. He said through Friday’s Lahore rally the PML-N had gauged the people’s mood.

“We have seen the direction of the people’s vote... but if something happens we will not accept the results,” he said.

Talking about the government’s decision to hold Nawaz and Maryam’s trial in jail, the Sharif junior said: “Nawaz and daughter Maryam are not terrorists that they are put on trial in jail. The government’s decision is unconstitutional. Even during the Musharraf regime our trial was held in open court. This is contrary to the Constitution and law and absolutely a wrong decision. The government should act sensibly. We will challenge this decision in the court.”

He said all available forums would be exhausted to the effect.

Earlier, the 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. Last week, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam were handed down 10 and seven years imprisonment, respectively, in the Avenfield properties case. Both father and the daughter arrived here from London to face the jail.

Shahbaz Sharif further hinted that PML-N might go for agitation in connection with the trial of Nawaz and Maryam. “We can go for all options -- legal and political -- in the case of Mian Sahib and Maryam. Soon I will give a call to the party workers to wear black armbands to lodge their protest in this regard at public meetings,” he said.

He expressed the hope that the Sharif family would get relief in this case from the high court. “The accountability court’s judgement is very weak. It acquitted them (Nawaz and Maryam) of corruption charges, therefore, it holds no ground,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the PML-N president presided over a meeting of senior leaders in the Model Town office and discussed the party strategy in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s imprisonment and the challenges the party was facing from the ‘hidden hands’ ahead of the polls.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Azad Kashmir premier Raja Farooq Haider, speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Amir Muqam and Marriyum Aurangzeb attended the meeting.

“The meeting has decided that PML-N should fully resist any tactics applied to push it against the wall in the elections. The candidates should be conveyed (by Shahbaz) that they must remain unfazed by the difficulties in running their campaign and focus only to win the election,” a party leader told Dawn after the meeting.

Rally Controversy

As mystery shrouded the PML-N rally’s failure to reach the Lahore airport on time to receive Nawaz and Maryam, Shahbaz Sharif said: “We could not make it to [the airport] on time because of such a big rally. It was a sea of people that was why we could not reach the airport on time.”

Asked if it was a deliberate plan of the PML-N not to reach there [on time] to receive their leaders, Mr Sharif said: “We wanted to go there but the rally size was so big that we could not manage,” he clarified.

The PML-N’s rally kicked off at Lohari Gate after 4pm, some two hours before the scheduled arrival of Nawaz and Maryam at the Lahore airport. Shahbaz was also criticised by the opposition for not coming out of his bullet-proof car in the eight-hour long rally that culminated at Dharampura on Friday midnight.

“This rally was the most charged one I have ever seen in my political career,” Mr Sharif said, claiming that his workers did not indulge in violent clashes with police. He did not stop short of giving another strong warning to police saying “those police men responsible for inflicting injuries on the PML-N workers will be given punishment under the law.”

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2018