London, July 13: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who have been sentenced to long jail terms in Avenfield properties corruption case, are set to be arrested after their arrival in Lahore from London today.
Before boarding the flight to Lahore, Nawaz posted a video message making an emotional appeal to the countrymen.
“I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and I will be sent to jail straight away. I want to tell the people of my nation that I am doing this for you. I am making this sacrifice for generations to come. I urge everyone to come and stand with me and let’s change the fate of the country together,” Nawaz Sharif said in the video message.
“This was neither a case, nor there is 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 keep me out because I wanted a stronger democracy,” he told The Nation newspaper before his departure from London.
Sharif said that “draconian crackdown” on his supporters by the Punjab government shows that the authorities are scared of his appeal and are desperate to stop tens of thousands of people from reaching Lahore airport to welcome him and his daughter.
Upon their arrival at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport at 6.15 p.m., both will be arrested and taken to Islamabad by helicopter to be imprisoned at the Rawalpindi Central Jail, Dawn online reported.
Authorities deployed 10,000 policemen and blocked several roads in Lahore hours ahead of their arrival.
“The authorities have ordered the police to help the National Accountability Bureau in arresting Sharif and his daughter when they arrive here. So of course police will help in this regard,” senior Lahore police officer Shehzad Akbar told Efe news.
The three-time Prime Minister was ousted from office last year after a corruption investigation.
He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years last week over his family’s ownership of four luxury flats in London. His daughter and son-in-law Captain (retired) Muhammad Safdar Awan were sentenced for seven years and one year respectively.
The Avenfield corruption case is among the multiple graft cases filed against the former Premier and his children by the anti-corruption body on the Supreme Court’s directives in the landmark Panamagate verdict last year.
The government of Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, banned Sharif’s party the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) from holding protests and announced it will also ban mobile phones for the day.
However, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif said he will lead a peaceful protest to receive his brother.
Thousands of supporters are expected to flock to the airport while hundreds of party activists in Lahore were reportedly detained ahead of his return.
Nawaz Sharif has called for a “mass gathering of the people”.
Sharif has accused Pakistan’s security establishment of conspiring against him ahead of the July 25 general election. In a video message, tweeted by Maryam Nawaz, the former leader urged his followers to stand with him and “change the fate of the country”.
“The country is at a critical juncture right now. I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years (in prison) and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away. But I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you,” Sharif said.
Maryam posted pictures on Twitter before their departure. In one picture, the father and daughter are seen bidding a teary farewell with Kulsoom Nawaz, who is said to be comatose and admitted at a London hospital.
Sharif has earlier argued that he was disqualified because his government had accused ex-military dictator Pervez Musharraf of treason in court. He has called the graft charges “politically motivated”.
(With inputs from agencies)