As anticipated, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were arrested after the flight carrying them from Abu Dhabi landed at Lahore a little before 9.30 pm (Indian Standard Time) on Friday.
Dawn reported that dozens of security personnel entered the aircraft after it landed and asked other passengers to disembark. Nawaz Sharif and daughter were then escorted to the lounge to meet his mother. While taking them into custody, their passports were confiscated.
PML(N) and several other political leaders condemned the crackdown on PML(N) supporters in Lahore. Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari questioned why PML(N) supporters were being arrested and prevented from staging peaceful protests.
The arrest capped a dramatic day in Pakistan with blasts, protests and arrests. Several flights from Lahore were refused permission to take off. Bilawal Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party tweeted that while his flight was detained, another flight with Imran Khan was allowed to take off.
Both Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, reported Pakistani media, would either be driven to Attock Jail from Islamabad or taken to Adiala prison. At the time of reporting, it was not clear where.
Pakistan’s former Prime Minister and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz’s flight finally took off from Abu Dhabi and is expected to land at Lahore at 9 pm PST ( 9.30 pm Indian Standard Time) on Friday. were arrested at Lahore on arrival from London on Friday.
They are likely to be arrested on arrival and flown to flown to Islamabad in a helicopter before being lodged in Adiala prison.
Their arrival in Lahore was delayed as the Etihad Airways Flight EY243 failed to take off from Abu Dhabi on schedule. Earlier scheduled to land at 6.15 pm PST at the Allama Iqbal International Airport at Lahore, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, sentenced to 10 years and 7 years in prison respectively, are expected to be arrested on arrival.
Pakistan was on edge as a large number of PML(N) supporters were detained or arrested across Pakistan, a ban was imposed by the caretaker Government on Television giving coverage to the ‘convicted’ and supporters of Nawaz Sharif defied barricades to move towards the airport.
Talking to Pakistani media on phone from Abu Dhabi, Nawaz Sharif wondered how a flight which was ‘never late’ had been delayed for three hours. People and the media, he suggested, need to question the delay and find out why it was delayed.
The newspaper Dawn reported that Nawaz Sharif claimed he and his daughter had decided to return from London because they wanted to change the situation and restore civilian rule in the country.
The newspaper quoted PML-N media coordinator Muhammad Mehdi saying that “state oppression aimed at discouraging party activists” had worked the other way and emboldened them to come out on roads to show solidarity with their leadership.
Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) tweeted several videos and photographs on Friday and claimed that supporters were being prevented from reaching the airport. People shouting slogans and waving PML(N) flags can be seen in the videos released by the party.
Before leaving London, where Nawaz Sharif had gone to attend to his ailing wife, the former Prime Minister told the media that in Pakistan there was a state above the state. He hoped that the election July 25 would be a decisive moment in the history of Pakistan.
The election is a referendum, he said, and every Pakistani will have to decide on the course the country takes.
Observers believe that crackdown on PML(N) workers and conviction and arrest of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter could boost the prospects of PML(N) in the election. Publication of the tell-all book by Imran Khan’s second wife has cast a cloud on his chances. Till the first week of July, Imran Khan’s PTI was believed to be surging ahead in popular support, backed by the military establishment. But with PML(N) fighting back, there is also speculation that the establishment is propping up the Pakistan People’s Party.
Both Maryam Nawaz and PML(N) tweeted other visuals from Abu Dhabi and Lahore.
*This article was updated at 22:28 on July 13