Ex-Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, daughter arrested as they return to Lahore

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (pictured) and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were taken into custody by officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) around 9.25pm on Friday after the plane from Abu Dhabi carrying them landed at Lahore airport, agencies report.

Dozens of security officials entered the plane and asked other passengers to leave. The passports of Sharif and his daughter were seized by a three-member Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team.

Shortly after, the two were taken into custody by NAB officials. They were then put on a small private plane bound for Islamabad International Airport (IIA) from where both were taken to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

Nawaz and Maryam were convicted by an accountability court in the Avenfield corruption case last Friday and handed jail sentences of 10 years and seven years respectively. Sharif was found guilty of owning assets beyond known income while Maryam was convicted for aiding and abetting her father in covering up a “conspiracy”.

The sentencing came just weeks before the crucial national elections. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is running the federal government under the shadow of the powerful military. Sharif’s return is crucial for the party which hopes to win the elections by riding on the sympathy wave after his arrest.

Before boarding the connecting flight to Lahore from Abu Dhabi airport, Sharif told journalists over phone that he is not afraid of being arrested.

Sharif said he and his daughter were returning to Pakistan because the country’s fate needs to change and they have to change it.

In his home city Lahore, hundreds of PML-N workers have been arrested. Many are being pressured by the military to switch loyalties to defeat PML-N in the elections and bring down the government. These acts raise doubts about the credibility of the elections, he said.

He told Pakistani journalists to be brave despite the curbs they face. He said Pakistan’s press is being gagged because the military is upset over the fact that the nation and the media are rising above them.

Before leaving London, Sharif and Maryam bid farewell to Kulsoom Nawaz, Sharif’s wife, who is in a coma in a London hospital.