PAKISTAN Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif along with his mother and other family members on Saturday night visited ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar, who began serving their prison terms in the Avenfield properties reference, at Adiala jail.

The family members, including Maryam Nawaz’s daughter Meharun Nisa and Shahbaz’s son Hamza Shahbaz, were earlier flown to Islamabad from Lahore on a special plane for the meeting, which took place in the jail superintendent’s room and continued for more than two hours.

No other party leader or worker visited Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz on their first day in jail, as the authorities had allocated Thursday for the visitors wanting to meet them. The meeting of the family members, however, had been arranged on a special permission of the government, a senior official of the district administration told Dawn.

Hours before the visit, Mr Shahbaz told a press conference in Lahore that the party would use all available options, legal and political, to challenge the caretaker government’s decision about the jail trial of the former premier. He expressed the hope that the Sharif family would get relief in the London properties case from the high court.

Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were handed down 10 and seven years’ imprisonment, respec­tively, in the London properties case last week.

Shahbaz fumes at Sharifs’ trial in prison, terms FIRs against PML-N workers pre-poll rigging

After their return from London on Friday night, the caretaker law ministry issued a notification declaring that the accountability court will conduct trial in the Flagship Investment and Al Azizia Steel Mills references against Nawaz Sharif in Adiala jail.

In the wake of their arrest, senior PML-N leaders discussed the party’s strategy for the July 25 elections in a meeting held at the Model Town office. Mr Shahbaz also criticised the authorities for registration of FIRs against himself, other party leaders and workers after the Friday crackdown, asking the election commission and other institutions to take notice of the “pre-poll rigging”.

Better class facilities for Nawaz, Safdar

Meanwhile, the Punjab home department notified “Better Class” category in Adiala jail for the former prime minister and Capt Safdar on their formal requests, while Maryam refused to apply for the better class.

A senior home department official told Dawn that the department had notified Better Class, generally known as B-Class, for the former premier. The category entailed facilities of a mattress, small table and chair, ceiling fan, 21-inch TV and a newspaper, he said, adding that none of the facilities would be provided by the jail authorities. They would be provided by the convict’s family.

Speaking to Dawn, a district administration official said retired Capt Mohammad Safdar was getting better class facilities in the jail as he was a former military officer and a former parliamentarian. “Yes, he had applied for the better class and after getting formal permission of the home department, he is availing the facility,” the official said, adding that he had been kept in the ordinary class earlier.

However, Maryam Nawaz refused to apply for it. In her signed letter, she stated: “I was offered to apply for better class facilities by the superintendent of the jail, as per the rules that I refused of my own will. This is purely my own decision, taken without any pressure from anyone.”

Earlier, in her special audio message for voters recorded before going to the Adiala jail, Maryam said: “You all know, I left my mother in critical condition, as I went to London to meet her along with my father Mohammad Nawaz Sharif. We found her unconscious and when I was returning back home she opened eyes and saw us but could not talk. I haven’t committed any crime, but I am in prison because I am daughter of a brave man. They want to make me a weakness of my father but luckily now I am a source of [his] strength. Kindly pray for my mother’s health, I wish to hug her in healthy condition.”

“If I was not in the prison I would fight this historical democratic battle with you on the streets, despite being a prisoner I am still with my people, your daughter and sister is appealing to you to prepare for the 25th July... My sisters and daughters, it’s time for you to come out and participate in the election process and spread the message of sanctity of vote. I was contesting election from one constituency but now Maryam is contesting from 272 constituencies. Support a democratic and constitutional Pakistan; support your leader Nawaz Sharif and your daughter. Victory for PML-N is victory for democracy, a victory for Pakistan.”

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2018