- Family says Kulsoom Nawaz ‘briefly opened eyes’ hours ahead of Nawaz and daughter Maryam’s flight back to Pakistan
- Shehbaz fumes as police detain ‘hundreds of workers across Punjab’, charge them under MPO
- PML-N president warns caretaker govt, civil admin of ‘fair judgement’ if PML-N is voted to power again
LAHORE: As Begum Kulsoom Nawaz regained “consciousness” on Thursday and deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif confirmed his homecoming on Friday, the stage is set for a tense showdown between the Punjab caretaker government and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) zealots amid a police crackdown on party workers in Lahore and its surrounding areas.
“I am leaving behind my ailing wife to come back for the sake of the country,” said Nawaz, adding that Kulsoom had briefly opened her eyes but “she did not recognize me”.
“But I’m returning to Pakistan leaving my sick wife behind,” he vowed.
In separate statements, Nawaz’s children Maryam and Hussain said that their mother had opened her eyes for a few seconds exactly one month after losing consciousness and being placed on a ventilator.
Speaking to media persons outside London’s Harley Street Clinic, Hussain said that his mother opened her eyes for a few seconds only to close them again; however, she is in a better state now and doctors have adjusted the settings on the ventilator.
In a tweet, the former first daughter said “[First] time in 30 days, Ami opened eyes for a few seconds. Don’t know if she saw or registered us. [She is] still not conscious and on ventilator. Prayers solicited.”
In a video message in support of her son and granddaughter ahead of their expected return, Nawaz’s mother Shamim Begum said that “the leader who made Pakistan prosperous is returning to the homeland”.
“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.
CARETAKERS CRASH WELCOME PARTY:
Meanwhile in Pakistan, things don’t look good for the beleaguered PML-N.
The welcome announced by new party president and Nawaz’s younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif did not go down well with the ‘powers that be’ and “hundreds of party workers were reportedly taken into custody from Lahore and some other cities till Thursday night” under the MPO [Maintenance of Public Order] law.
Besides arrests, the Lahore administration has also seized several containers and placed them on the main arteries of the city to discourage the PML-N workers from reaching the airport where Nawaz and Maryam would likely land at around 5.15pm in the evening, a week after their conviction.
Nawaz and Maryam, convicted by an anti-graft court in Islamabad on July 6, were sentenced to 10 and seven years, respectively, in the Avenfield reference.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has already announced that the father-daughter duo will be arrested as soon as their aircraft lands in Lahore and will be sent to Islamabad on a helicopter.
NAB has acquired two helicopters—one at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport and the other at the New Islamabad International Airport to transport the two convicts.
SHEHBAZ FUMES AS WORKERS GET ARRESTED:
Shehbaz Sharif and other senior leaders of the PML-N were visibly angry over the police crackdown on their party workers during a press conference held in Lahore on Thursday afternoon.
Warning the interim Punjab chief minister, Dr Hasan Askari “not to cross the lines”, Shehbaz vowed “to go to the airport to welcome our leader, come what may”.
“Sharifs will come back on Friday,” he said as he brushed aside the rumours of their flight cancellation.
“Everyone is involved in this blatant rigging from the caretaker Punjab chief minister to the caretaker interior minister and police officials,” the PML-N president asserted, as he warned the officials concerned of “fair judgement” if the PML-N is voted to power again.
Late on Wednesday night, police stormed workers’ homes and took them into custody for 30 days to thwart the PML-N’s ‘welcome’ procession.
PML-N leaders claimed that around 300 workers were arrested from Rawalpindi on Tuesday, while several hundred others had been picked up from Lahore and other cities.
“No logic can defend the 30-day detention of our workers,” Shehbaz upheld.
Urging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take notice of the emerging situation, the PML-N president said, “By the time our workers are released polls will be over.”
Lamenting that the party is not being allowed to campaign and is “being pushed against the wall”, Shehbaz said, “No one complain to me later if we are not given a level playing field.”
“Section 144 has been imposed for us while Imran Khan has been permitted to hold a rally in Defence Housing Authority,” he said, adding, “You can do all the rigging you want, we will still win the July 25 polls.”
Once again, appealing that the ‘injustice’ and arrests of workers be stopped, Shehbaz urged the caretaker government setup, “Please pause, reflect and change the course.”
“The caretaker setup is a salaried puppet,” he said.
Further, the PML-N president said the verdict in the Avenfield reference was ‘unjust’. “Judge’s verdict stated that there was no proof of corruption against Nawaz,” he said while adding that he was sentenced based on presumptions.