Ahead of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s return on Friday, Pakistan’s media regulator ordered television channels to stop live telecast of briefings of political leaders containing “defamatory and derogatory content”.
The order, seen as an effort to ensure that Nawaz Sharif wasn’t able to turn public opinion in his favour ahead of the July 25 general election, said “malicious and indecent content” was being aired live by television channels and sought only telecast of edited footage.
The media regulator’s order banning live telecast of speeches by political leaders against the judiciary, armed forces and the political leadership, is seen as an effort to black out Nawaz Sharif when he lands in Pakistan tomorrow evening.
Nawaz Sharif, 68, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Pakistani accountability court for corrupt practices linked to his family’s purchase of four London flats. He faces two more corruption cases against him following the Panama Paper scandal.
The regulator’s order comes against the backdrop of a crackdown by the Pakistani police targeting leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, after Nawaz Sharif declared that he was returning from London “despite seeing a prison cell in front of him”.
The three-time prime minister’s dramatic return comes ahead of the July 25 general election which will pit Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N against its main political rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which is led by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan.
The former PM has accused the Pakistan’s army and its intelligence agency Inter Services Intelligence of trying to swing it in favour of rivals such as Imran Khan’s party.
Sharif will be arrested upon landing on Friday as he travels from London to appeal his conviction and face the jail sentence. Officials have said a helicopter each had been positioned at airports in Islamabad and Lahore airports for the arrest.
He is accompanied by daughter Maryam Nawaz, 44, seen as his political heir. She was also convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Before leaving London, she called going back to Pakistan “to go to prison the most difficult decision of our lives because my mother is on the ventilator and we don’t know what happens next, their is no pain like that of leaving your mother behind in such situation but there’s a national duty and we must make this important journey”.