Published: Fri, July 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Returning to Pakistan 'whether I'm taken to prison or gallows': Nawaz Sharif

Returning to Pakistan 'whether I'm taken to prison or gallows': Nawaz Sharif

Scores of party activists faithful to the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif were arrested in night raids ahead of his return to Pakistan and a showdown with the country's security officials and judiciary.

They said one helicopter would be at Lahore airport, while the other would be in Islamabad, and the father-daughter duo would be arrested upon landing at either of the two airports.

He said that he was returning "despite seeing a prison cell in front of him" and was saddened that he was leaving his wife behind on ventilator. "No one will be allowed to take the law into their own hands", he said.

"I am returning to fulfill the promise of giving respect to vote", the 68-year-old three-time premier said.

"My children have been wrongly convicted; I won't let them go to jail; however, if they are sent to prison, I will go with them", she said. "This is the height of revenge", said Sharif.

Maryam, daughter and political heir of the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, added that "anyone would have reacted" to such unacceptable act.

A police official who asked not to be identified said more than 100 PML-N workers had been detained.

The run-up to the general election has been marred by accusations that the military is meddling in politics and muzzling the media to help usher cricketer turned politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) into power.

The opposition Pakistan People Party (PPP) has also alleged "pre-poll rigging" this week, but did not specifically name the armed forces. He faces two more corruption cases against him following the Panama Paper scandal. His brother Shehbaz became PML-N's president, but Sharif remains the power behind the throne.

The kind of reception Sharif receives on the streets of Lahore will be viewed carefully in Pakistan, where political popularity is often measured by the size of rallies that politicians can attract.

Shehbaz further said that PML-N opponents are given full liberty to hold rallies while section 144 has been imposed in Lahore only to stop the PML-N workers from receiving their leader.

"We used to hear about "a state within a state" but now things have gone to the extent that there is "a state above the state".

Muhammad Mehdi, the party's media coordinator, told Reuters that almost 500 workers had been detained in a "massive crackdown", including raids on the homes of a number of some of the party's local councillors.

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