Former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif returns home to face prison; all you need to know

By Prarthana Mitra

Amid great political unrest and heightened security, Pakistan awaited the return of disgraced former leader Nawaz Sharif on Friday. Sharif is to be arrested by authorities on arrival on account of corruption charges. After landing in Lahore from the UK following a four-hour delay, Sharif and his daughter Maryam were immediately taken to Islamabad by helicopter.

The surrender, he said, was a mark of “sacrifice for the future generations of the country and for its political stability.”

Sharif accused of ill-gotten gains

The arrest comes a week after the country’s National Accountability Court found the pair guilty of corruption-related charges related to the Panama Papers. Sharif and his daughter have been sentenced to ten and seven years in prison respectively. Moreover, they have being fined £8 million. Both have been barred from engaging in politics for a period of ten years. Sharif’s son-in-law is also serving a one-year prison sentence for the purchase of real estate overseas with illegally gotten money. Sharif is expected to appeal his conviction and seek bail against the 10-year jail term.

Sharif who headed the Pakistan Muslim League Noon (PMLN) party released a video message from the airplane bound for Lahore, addressing his supporters who were preparing for mass protests in his support. Shahbaz Sharif, the current PMLN chief and brother of Nawaz Sharif, wished to lead a “reception rally” for his sibling’s return, in vehement rejection of the guilty verdict.

Lahore is in lockdown

However, an emergency law preventing any public assembly of more than four people was temporarily placed by the authorities. According to party spokesman Mushahid Hussain, close to 500 party workers clashed with and were detained by security forces on Thursday night. Pakistan’s Information Ministry also asked for internet coverage to be turned off in certain locations and announced earlier on Friday that the pair shall be arrested as soon as they touch down.

In July 2017, the Supreme Court ordered Sharif to step down from office following a government probe into his family’s wealth. This was after the publication of the Panama Papers.

Several factions are questioning the move, as it comes just weeks before Pakistan heads for the polls. The Sharifs’ return may serve as an attempt by their political allies to shore up support in the face of candidates jumping ship. The PMLN party completed its term in May 2018 and an interim government is currently in power until the July poll.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius