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Nawaz returns to jail amidst show of power

Top Story

May 8, 2019

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-N’s convicted supremo Nawaz Sharif exhibited a big show of political power on Tuesday night when thousands of his party workers accompanied him on his way back to the Kot Lakhpat Jail from his Jati Umra residence, after expiry of his six-week bail term, granted by the Supreme Court.

Serving a seven-year jail term, awarded by an accountability court in Al Azizia case last year, Nawaz Sharif left his residence for the jail amidst a crowd of workers, chanting slogans and waving banners and party flags. The rally was led by his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who was sitting in the front seat of the SUV, while his nephew Hamza Shahbaz was drivingthe vehicle. Nawaz Sharif was sitting on the back seat waving hands to the party workers and replying to their slogans occasionally.

Highly-charged workers chanted slogans of “Sher aya, sher aya (lion is coming)”, as the vehicle of Nawaz Sharif came out of his Jati Umra residence gate at 8:20pm. Workers showered rose petals on the vehicle, which was moving at a snail’s pace due to extraordinary rush of party workers. They were carrying portraits of Nawaz Sharif, and they flashed victory signs and captured pictures of their leader on their mobile phones.

Other party leaders accompanying the motorcade were: Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khwaja Asif, Pervaiz Malik, Javed Hashmi, etc. A large number of leaders and workers had gathered at various points along the route and were standing on both sides of the roads to express solidarity with him. They had erected flexes and banners across the city, expressing solidarity with Nawaz Sharif. The party leadership had directed the workers to gather at the Shanghai Flyover near the Ferozpur Road to show the party strength.

Crowds of workers welcomed the rally at the Adda Plot point at Raiwind Road, and later at many places as it moved through the Lahore Ring Road and reached Shanghai flyover, where the party had set up a reception camp. Maryam Nawaz kept sharing her views about the strength of the rally and the mood of workers through her social media account. In series of tweets, she shared videos of the party workers accompanying the vehicle. In a tweet, she said, “Queue of cars and bikes is endless. Hundreds of party workers are around car to get a glimpse of their leader. From the vehicles, heads are seen till the end,” one of her tweets read. “Ring Road…. jam-packed,” she tweeted along with a video.

PML-N leader Khwaja Asif also shared his views in a tweet. “Custodian of vote ko izzat do slogan has started journey towards jail for the fourth time in a year,” the tweet read. In another tweet, he accused the Pakistan Electric Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) of ordering channels to stop coverage of the rally. “Pemra ordered blackout of the rally… Islamabad is scared,” he said in a tweet.

Earlier, Kot Lakhpat jail officials had reached Jati Umra to arrest Nawaz Sharif in the evening, but had to return empty-handed as the PML-N leadership told them the convicted leader would himself reach the jail. Former defence minister and party leader Khwaja Asif said Nawaz Sharif would reach Kot Lakhpat jail as planned, till midnight. He warned Prime Minister Imran Khan against treading the path to destruction, adding that the PML-N still stands by its slogan of “Respect for Vote”.

On the occasion, Javed Hashmi said those who brought Imran Khan to power were also suffering, while Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the government had failed, adding that it must go home before masses throw them out.

PML-N leader Pervaiz Rasheed said people of Pakistan were with Nawaz Sharif, adding that the government was afraid of an ailing prisoner.

Earlier, Lahore police refused to provide security to PML-N rally from Jati Umra to jail, expressing concerns over the security threats to the rally and insisting that Nawaz Sharif should be taken to jail before sunset. But the PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah warned that the government would be responsible if any harm was caused to Nawaz Sharif.

Addressing a press conference, he demanded Lahore Police provide security to Nawaz Sharif and assured that the rally would remain peaceful. Taking full responsibility in case of any harm, he said not a bulb would be broken. He threatened that if anyone tried to stop or arrest their members, it would not be tolerated by them. “Inspector General (of Police) and home secretary should not become a tool of fake rulers,” he added. It is their duty to provide a safe route to Nawaz Sharif and all routes should be kept open without obstacles.

He said Nawaz Sharif had been punished without any reason, adding that workers were under huge pressure on this sad occasion. He said the workers wanted to show solidarity by accompanying him on his way to jail, but the administration adopted a very strange attitude with them. The SP security sent a letter to the party with traditional excuses to restrain the party from going out, he added.

Meanwhile, Punjab Home Department directed officials of Kot Lakhpat Jail to receive former premier Nawaz Sharif on his arrival at the jail gate even in the late night. Earlier, Kot Lakhpat Jail’s lock-up was closed at 11pm as per the jail manual. Jail superintendent had said "since Nawaz does not report back to the jail on time, the lockup has been closed for the night and the authorities will not receive him." However, later the home department sent a special order through fax to the jail superintendent, directing him to receive Nawaz Sharif on his arrival at the jail late in the night.

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