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July 13, 2018
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Nawaz, Maryam arrive today: ‘Stop arresting people’

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July 13, 2018

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LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday said “blatant pre-poll rigging” is going on at the behest of the caretaker government and the Election Commission is acting mute as if complicit.

“We are already subject to the worst pre-poll rigging and the PML-N supporters and workers are very upset. They are peace-loving people. Do not push them against the wall to the point that they tip over the edge, I won’t be able to control the anger of the masses if this does not stop,” warned Shahbaz. The remarks came as PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are arriving in Lahore today (Friday) and the party is facing a crackdown with hundreds of workers arrested.

Addressing a press conference at the PML-N Model Town secretariat, Shahbaz appeared very angry over the arrest of party workers and leaders. “Hundreds of our workers, chairmen and vice-chairmen are being arrested unlawfully, terming it "tantamount to abduction". Their families, women, mother, wives and children were harassed last night as the police raided their homes, asking them to hand over their men. What is going on? What is this caretaker government up to?” he said. “These actions of the caretaker government have already cast doubts over the general elections and the entire world is now aware that the PML-N is being targeted to manipulate election results against them,” he said.

Shahbaz said, “Despite the Supreme Court’s decision that nobody is to be arrested before July 30, this caretaker government is violating every code of conduct and law to pursue its sinister designs to benefit Pakistan Tehreek–e-Insaaf (PTI) in the upcoming elections.” “Listen to me all of you bureaucrats, police officials and the caretaker operatives who are targeting the PML-N workers to benefit the PTI, stop targeting and harassing the PML-N people! All this hooliganism of yours can only last till July 25 after which the PML-N will be in the government and although we don’t victimise anyone, we will legally hold you accountable for these actions and you will be the ones behind bars,” warned the former chief minister.

“The caretaker chief minister of Punjab and the inspector general of police are acting like PTI activists. Imran Khan is holding his rally and public meeting in Lahore today. He is the person who ransacked the Constitution Avenue, attacked the Parliament, incited an attack on Pakistan Television, yet the ‘Section 144’ does not apply to him and his activities, while the PML-N workers are being arrested and told they can’t welcome their Quaid at the airport because of Section 144. What double standards are these? This puppet caretaker government needs to act and act now. Release all PML-N activists and workers.” demanded Shahbaz. He said page 171 of the NAB verdict exonerated Nawaz from any and all corruption, embezzlement, dishonestly and misappropriation and added that the prosecution could not prove a single corruption charge. “If he is arrested from the airport or even if I am arrested, our people will remain peaceful, they would protest with black bands, but would never ransack public property,” he said.

Shahbaz said the PML-N only wanted to welcome their leader home, their leader who sacrificed his personal obligation, left his wife fighting with death in England and chose to come back to Pakistan to guard the rights of his people and these people want to honour him peacefully, which was their constitutional right. “The world is already pointing fingers at Pakistan. India, our enemy, has established itself as a true democracy. Imagine what impression such a rigged election would give to world. Where would it place Pakistan in the comity of nations? What would be the credibility of our democracy and government in the eyes of the international community with such blatant violations of the election code?” questioned the PML-N president. “If we want to defeat India and its influence in the region, we need to take Pakistan forward on all the fronts, including legitimacy of the democratic system, healthcare, education, economy and industry. That will only be possible if all institutions – military, judiciary, media, politicians and bureaucracy – work together to take Pakistan forward, instead of dragging it back through prejudicial pre-poll rigging. These targets can only be achieved through above-board, transparent elections where everyone is given a level playing field,” stressed Shahbaz.

On the other hand, NAB Chairman Justice (retd)) Javed Iqbal in Islamabad said the accountability court’s judgment in the Avenfield reference would be implemented in letter and spirit. The arrest of Nawaz and Maryam, who were convicted in Avenfield reference, would be ensured according to the law,” he said in a statement. Javed said strict action would be taken against those found creating hurdles in their arrest.

Meanwhile, the NAB has devised a strategy to arrest the two, according to which, two helicopters and two teams would be present at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore. Moreover, two more teams would be ready at the New Islamabad International Airport as well. Sources say Nawaz and Maryam would first be brought to the Islamabad airport.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Barrister Ali Zafar said arrangements are in place to deal with any situation arising out of former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s arrival.

“The National Accountability Bureau’s team and the Punjab government have made arrangements to deal with the situation and it is their responsibility to maintain law and order,” said the minister while talking to reporters at the Parliament House. Zafar said there is also a contingency plan if any law and order situation occurred. “Whether Nawaz Sharif lands at Lahore or Islamabad, a security plan is in place,” he added.

The minister said there are remedies under the law for Nawaz Sharif and he could appeal against the Accountability Court decision. “He can seek suspension of the order issued against him or move the apex court,” Zafar added.

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