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July 14, 2018

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Nawaz, Maryam land in Lahore, airlifted for Adiala

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Former prime minister and PML-N Quaid Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam Nawaz were arrested soon after a plane carrying them from Abu Dhabi touched down at the Allama Iqbal Airport, Lahore, on Friday night.

The two arrived at 8:50pm after their flight was delayed for over two hours. They had left London a day earlier. A National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team took Nawaz and Maryam in its custody from the aircraft, while the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) seized their passports.

Shortly afterwards, they were boarded on a special plane which took off for Islamabad. Their departure to Islamabad was delayed since the aged mother of Nawaz Sharif, Mrs Shamim Akhtar, 85, was brought to the lounge of Haj terminal to meet her son and granddaughter.

It was after this brief meeting that Nawaz and Maryam were flown to Islamabad.

The flight landed at the New Islamabad Airport at around 10:35pm after which both were taken to the Adiala Jail in two separate armoured personnel carriers (APCs) escorted by police convoys.

During the flight, Nawaz was seated in the Business Class while the media was travelling in the Cabin Class. Despite repeated requests and chants by media representatives asking Nawaz to come and talk to them, Nawaz did not do so.

Sources said earlier certain passengers on the same flight chanted a derogatory anti-Nawaz slogan, which’s why the PML-N Quaid avoided an escalated episode. Even during his transit stay, he was not allowed to interact with the media. One journalist managed to get access to him and the rest held a joint interview on an audio call.

A large contingent of Rangers and Airport Security Force (ASF) had been deployed at the airport. Even the passengers bearing tickets were made to walk long distances to the terminal. Also a large number of plain-clothed members of security agencies were noticed patrolling the waiting areas.

There was a lack of clarity over where the two would be kept, speaking volumes about the chaos and confusion at the government level. The plan was changed thrice. According to the first notification, the government decided to keep the two at the Sihala Police College Rest House in Islamabad.

However, a second notification came on the heels of the first notification according to which it was decide to keep Maryam at the Sihala Rest House and Nawaz at the Adiala Jail.

Finally, a third notification came out conveying the authorities concerned that the two convicts would be kept at the Adiala Jail. The medial examination of the two convicts was carried out in the presence of Islamabad magistrate and senior police officials.

The residents of Adiala were subjected to a great deal of inconvenience hours before the two convicts were shifted to the jail. The police and law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area restricting the residents to their homes.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Law and Justice issued a notification saying that the accountability court would conduct trial of references [against Nawaz and others] at the Adiala Jail. Earlier on Friday night, Accountability Court-I Judge Muhammad Bashir signed arrest warrants for the two arrested leaders.

Judge Muhammad Bashir reached the court an hour before the arrival of Nawaz and Maryam at the new Islamabad Airport and signed their arrest orders on the request of NAB Prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi.

The media was not allowed into the court. Talking to the media outside the court, Muzaffar Abbasi said the judge was told that the convicts be exempted from personal appearance in the court as it was not possible to present them in the court for security reasons.

Meanwhile, talking to Geo News Murtaza Ali Shah from the Harley Street Clinic prior to his departure for the Heathrow Airport to take flight to Abu Dhabi en route to Pakistan, Nawaz said the ‘draconian crackdown’ on his supporters by the Punjab government showed that the authorities were scared of his appeal and were desperate to stop tens of thousands of people from reaching the Lahore airport to welcome him and his daughter Maryam.

Nawaz said he was aware that hundreds of his supporters had been picked up from across the Punjab and more raids were being planned. This is the worst kind of crackdown on democracy and rule of law in Pakistan,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif said the massive crackdown showed that his enemies were clearly perturbed and were aware that tens of thousands could turn out in his support as he returns to go to jail after being convicted.

“My supporters trust me and know that I have been acquitted of all corruption charges. I have been given a clean chit by the NAB court and I am honoured. My conviction is political and it’s based on presumptions and assumptions. It’s just to fix me to fix 2018 elections and the outcome of these elections,” he said.

Asked if he was prepared to face difficulties in jail, Nawaz said he was not going there for the first time. “This is the history of this country and the most tragic part of it is that the judiciary, like always, accepted that abrogation of the Constitution. A large number of judges had pledged allegiance to Musharraf, turning away from their constitutional oath. No one asked where the prime minister of the country was.”

Nawaz Sharif said the obtaining situation was not different from Musharraf era’s. “Today, apparently, there is democracy in the state, but the situation is not different. I know what difficulties would be there in the prison. I don't know how long will I be there in this era of cruelty and injustice, but my mission is to rid my nation of this 70-year imprisonment, which is why I am returning to the country regardless of the consequences.”

Nawaz Sharif said his conviction was secured through “a game of blind revenge”. “This was neither a case, nor was there a verdict. This is a game of blind revenge, which is continuing. There is no case against me, there never was. The whole Panama case was started to fix politics and to take me out because I wanted a stronger democracy.”

Nawaz Sharif said he was honoured that all allegations of corruption against him had been proven wrong and thrown out by the court.

Meanwhile, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif managed to organize a rally of thousands of charged supporters who fought through barracks, baton-charges, tear-gas shelling and aerial firing by the police at various points.

Shahbaz Sharif started leading the rally from Lohari Gate. The rally moved for over six hours on different roads but failed to reach the airport due to multiple police blockades. The rally was joined not just by enthusiastic PML-N youth but also by women and children. The participants sang party anthem and danced behind the leading vehicle of the PML-N president. The rally moved through Bhati Gate, Lower Mall, Nasir Bagh and The Mall. It reached Lahore Gymkhana where the police had set up a large blockade which people could not cross and had to divert towards the Canal Road and Dharampura. Several groups of workers joined the rally along the route.

According to the PML-N Media Cell, over 50 party workers sustained injuries due to unprovoked police brutality. PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan while talking to the media on the airport said that 13thJuly had laid it out clearly that this fight was between the PML-N which stands for the power of the people, the survival of the country and the survival of democracy and the enemies of the country, enemies of democracy and enemies of the people. He said on July 25, people would shower Nawaz with votes and give their verdict in favour of the country and democracy.

Shahbaz was riding a luxury jeep driven by his son Hamza Shahbaz, while several key PML-N leaders were with them including Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Pervaiz Rasheed and Amir Muqam.

The PML-N media coordinator said that 29 party workers were injured at Shahdara and some 20 at Bhatta Chowk. Ex-MNA Ch Tufail sustained severe head injuries during police baton charging on his way to Lahore with his rally.

He was rushed to hospital where he was declared out of danger after treatment. Ayaz Sadiq, who led a large contingent of vehicles, was confronted by the police that shot tear-gas at them after they cleared the blockades.

When the teargas shelling could not deter the PML-N crowd, the police resorted to aerial firing and damaged a number of vehicles with their batons, including that of the former speaker of the National Assembly.

The residents of Lahore were contained through containers for the day and there was no cellular phone service in the provincial capital till 11pm. In a related development, the Punjab police detained hundreds of PML-N leaders, ticket-holders and activists throughout the province to prevent them from proceeding towards Lahore to welcome Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz.

Dozens of policemen and PML-N activists were injured in clashes in different districts of the province. Major rallies and detentions took place in Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur, Multan, Pakpattan, Toba Tek Singh, etc.

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