Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam, sentenced to jail for corruption, are likely to be arrested mid-air, even before they land in Lahore this evening, suggest reports. Over 10,000 police officers have been posted in Lahore for what is expected to be a dramatic homecoming for Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister who wants to mobilise party ahead of general elections on July 25.
A team of Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau is reportedly trying to leave for Abu Dhabi to board the flight taken by the Sharifs, so they can be arrested as soon as the plane enters Pakistani airspace.
Thousands of supporters of Nawaz Sharif are expected to crowd the airport as he arrives in the evening.
Pakistan’s media regulator has ordered television channels to stop live telecast of briefings of political leaders containing “defamatory and derogatory content”. The move is seen as an effort to ensure that Nawaz Sharif was not able to turn public opinion in his favour ahead of the election.
The regulator claimed that “malicious and indecent content” was being aired live by television channels and sought only telecast of edited footage.
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.
Hundreds of members of Nawaz Sharif’s party were day before his return.
There has been a crackdown by the Pakistani police targeting leaders of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, after the former PM declared he was returning from London “despite seeing a prison cell in front of him”.
The election will pit the 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.
Nawaz Sharif wants to appeal his conviction and says he will face the jail sentence. Officials have said a helicopter each had been positioned at airports in Islamabad and Lahore airports for the arrest.
His daughter Maryam Nawaz, 44, 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”.