LAHORE: Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and her cousin Yousuf Abbas were arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case here on Thursday.

Opposition parties have condemned the arrests saying Imran Khan-led government’s action amounted to dividing the nation at this crucial juncture when unity was required to give a befitting response to the Indian government for scrapping autonomous status of occupied Kashmir.

Ms Nawaz’s arrest reportedly came in a dramatic way. She was present at the Kot Lakhpat jail on her weekly visit to her father along with her daughter and Yousuf Abbas, son of the late Abbas Sharif, when a NAB team accompanied by policewomen reportedly entered the prison cell and showed Ms Nawaz and Mr Abbas their arrest warrants in the CSM case in which they and other members of their family are facing money laundering and income beyond means charges.

“Maryam Nawaz has been arrested inside the Kot Lakhpat Jail in front of her ailing father and in the presence of her teenage daughter,” Nawaz Sharif’s personal physician Dr Adnan Khan said in a tweet. PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif also made a similar claim.

PML-N leader was visiting Lahore prison to meet incarcerated father

However, a NAB official disputed this claim, saying Ms Nawaz was arrested after she was returning following her meeting with her father.

A source told Dawn that NAB had planned to arrest Ms Nawaz on her visit to its provincial headquarters on Thursday in connection with the CSM investigation. However, when she told the anti-graft body in the morning she could not appear before a combined investigation team, NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal issued her arrest warrant and sent a team to the jail to arrest her.

After taking her and her cousin into custody, the NAB team took them to its provincial headquarters at Thokar Niaz Baig, where it kept Ms Nawaz at the Day Care Centre located on the premises of the bureau’s main building while Mr Yousuf was put in a prison cell next to his cousin Hamza Shahbaz, who has been in custody for about two months in illegal assets and money laundering case.

A good number of PML-N workers, who had gathered outside the Kot Lakhpat jail to express solidarity with Nawaz Sharif, protested after learning that Ms Nawaz had been arrested. As the bureau team took her to its office, the PML-N workers reached outside the bureau’s building where they staged a sit-in for several hours.

NAB said in a press release: “Maryam Nawaz and Yousuf Abbas have been arrested in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills [case]. Their medical examination has been conducted and they will be presented before an accountability court on Friday [today] to get their physical remand.”

Another NAB team also conducted raids to arrest Abdul Aziz Abbas, brother of Yousuf Abbas, in Lahore, but could not succeed.

Before her arrest, Ms Nawaz told reporters that she might be arrested.

Ms Nawaz had made scathing attacks on PM Khan during her recent rallies where she pulled big crowds. In her last rally on Tuesday she accused the prime minister of being responsible for what she called the “fall of Kashmir”.

A PML-N leader told Dawn that the government was in panic since Ms Nawaz had announced that she would lead a rally in Muzaffarabad to express solidarity with the people of Occupied Kashmir. “Since the PML-N has its government in Azad Kashmir and its support to the rally may put the PTI government in the centre in an awkward position, it had to arrest her before the rally,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PML-N submitted a resolution in the Punjab Assembly to condemn the arrest of Ms Nawaz, which said action against her was an example of worst political victimisation.

PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif also condemned the arrest of Ms Nawaz and advised Imran Khan to focus on the Kashmir issue instead of targeting the opposition.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2019