Published: Mon, July 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Pakistan opens terrorism investigation against ex-PM's party days before election

Pakistan opens terrorism investigation against ex-PM's party days before election

Former Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif was arrested on his return to the country late Friday, where he faces 10 years in prison for corruption, ahead of already tense elections his party claims are being rigged.

Sharif and his daughter Maryam were surrounded by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team on Friday, the moment Etihad Airlines flight EY 243 landed at the Allama Iqbal International Airport of Lahore at 8:48 p.m.

The attacks came hours before Sharif returned from London along with his daughter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges, anti-corruption officials said.

Sharif's son-in-law Mohammad Safdar was also awarded a one-year sentence.

His dramatic return, with less than a fortnight to go for general election in Pakistan, definitely has the potential to take wind out of the sails of Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf was seen to be gaining ground since Sharif was convicted of corruption and directed to serve time in prison as was his daughter Maryam.

Nawaz Sharif's legal team was allowed to meet him briefly a day after he was shifted to Adiala jail on the outskirts of Rawalpindi.

A special plane later carried Sharif and Maryam to Islamabad.

The military denied the accusations, saying their assistance in carrying out the elections was requested by Pakistan's election commission. "We are right and we hope to get some relief", he said. He will be accompanied by his daughter Mariam, who has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

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Pakistan's third major political movement, the Pakistan Peoples Party, joined the criticism of the crackdown, with its prime ministerial candidate Bilawal Bhutto Zardari questioning why Sharif's supporters would be prevented from gathering.

Friday was a bloody day in the lead-up to Pakistan's elections this month, as dozens were killed in two attacks on political rallies in the country.

As prime minister, he says he will partially model his promised anti-corruption campaign and poverty reduction programmes on China, Pakistan's traditional ally that has financed billions of dollars of infrastructure projects. Access to the internet and mobile phone services were also blocked and several workers of the PML-N taken into preventive custody on flimsy public-order offences.

As campaigning intensifies, attacks in different areas of the country have stoked fear of more violence in the Muslim country of 208 million where political rallies can draw tens of thousands of people. They include former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who replaced Sharif a year ago and served until June, when the caretaker government took over.

After the court's verdict, the remaining cases pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, and offshore companies, including Flagship Investment Limited.

Earlier, Sharif and Maryam flew to the UAE capital from London, where Sharif's wife Kulsoom, suffering from throat cancer, is battling for her life.

When the name Imran Khan comes to the fore, the first and foremost memory of Pakistan's 1992 Cricket World Cup victory sparks.

"Now for his return [from jail], it is your responsibility to vote for PML-N candidates on July 25".

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