Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — whose six-week bail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case expired on Tuesday — reached Kot Lakhpat Jail a little after midnight on Wednesday after travelling to the prison as part of a convoy comprising hundreds of PML-N supporters and party leaders.
Nawaz had left his Jati Umra residence in Lahore for the jail with a procession of PML-N workers led by Maryam Nawaz around 8:30pm.
Although the PML-N supremo was meant to reach the prison before midnight, his motorcade progressed slowly due to the traffic jam caused by the supporters. He eventually reached the jail around 12:15am. A heavy contingent of police was deployed on the road adjoining the jail.
"Took us four hours to reach Kotlakhpat from Raiwind which is hardly 30 mins drive [...] Now at the entrance. Thank you Lahore," tweeted Maryam.
In a video message shared by his daughter on Twitter, Nawaz thanked his "beloved workers" and residents of Lahore for accompanying him on the journey to jail. "Their passion and prayers will bear fruit and this night of tyranny will come to an end," he said.
The PML-N leader said he would be free from the "dark lock-up" of the jail with his supporters' prayers, adding: "I know that they (supporters) know what sin I am being punished for."
The former prime minister left his residence in Lahore on Tuesday evening after breaking his fast. In what was a departure from family tradition, Nawaz let Maryam take the front seat and himself rode in the back, although the two swapped places later.
Nawaz entered his car amid chants in his favour by PML-N workers, who were also holding placards and posters featuring his pictures.
Several prominent party leaders were part of Nawaz's entourage, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former defence minister Khawaja Asif and Punjab Assembly opposition leader Hamza Shahbaz, who drove the car carrying Nawaz.
Kot Lakhpat Jail's superintendent had earlier said that "since Nawaz did not report back to jail in time, the lockup has been closed for the night and jail authorities will now not receive him".
"A letter has been handed over to Jati Umra's security staff," the official had said, adding that "now we await the home department's special orders, on the basis of which a decision will be taken".
Sources later told DawnNewsTV that the Punjab home department had directed the prison to accept Nawaz despite him being late.
A party leader had told Dawn that the procession will serve as a response to critics of the party who believe that the PML-N has lost the ability to mobilise support on the streets. The official also said the party cadre were directed to mobilise the masses and make arrangements for Iftar for those who are likely to join the procession.
PML-N Punjab information secretary Asma Zahid Bukhari had dismissed the impression that the procession was a 'power show' and said that people would show up out of affection for their leader, while MPA Saiful Mulook claimed that no call had been given to workers for the event planned today.
PML-N leader Marriyum Aurangzeb had said that people would come out to say goodbye to Nawaz as per the scheduled programme. She said that the Punjab government would be responsible if the rallies, to express solidarity with Nawaz, are disrupted, and warned the federal and Punjab governments against taking any foolish step.
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A day earlier on Monday, the former premier's daughter Maryam had shared a new profile picture on Twitter on her father's return to Kot Lakhpat.
Appeals for bail extension, request to travel rejected
On April 30, Nawaz had filed an application in the apex court seeking an extension in his six-week bail. The application had called for an extension in bail until the verdict on his review petition concerning a March 26 order, through which Nawaz sought permission to leave the country.
"Given the complicated and life-threatening nature of ischemic heart disease, carotid artery disease, lymphadenopathy and renal artery stenosis, from which the petitioner [Nawaz Sharif] is admittedly suffering […] it is in the interest of justice that condition imposed for the petitioner’s release on bail merits review," the petition filed by Nawaz through his counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed had argued.
The condition in question was that Nawaz surrender himself to the authorities before he applies for bail again.
On May 3, the Supreme Court had rejected Nawaz's plea seeking an extension in his bail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case. The court also rejected a related plea seeking permission for Nawaz's treatment in the United Kingdom.