True to their words, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his political heir, Maryam Nawaz, returned to the country from London, surrendering themselves to the authorities. The two leaders, convicted of owning assets beyond their means, were taken straight to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail soon after their homecoming. The historical Adiala jail — a dreaded prison known for housing notorious mafia dons and high-value terrorists — has also played host to prominent politicians, including former PM Zulifkar Ali Bhutto.
The current caretakers proved no different from their elected counterparts as they attempted to control a huge number of PML-N leaders, activists and supporters — converging on Lahore from many parts of Punjab to receive their leaders. While hundreds of them had already been arrested by the police, those who managed to hit the roads on the day of Sharifs’ return were treated to batons and tear-gassing in the containerised city, thus creating a whole lot of scene.
Cases were then instituted against many, including top party leaders. Copies of the FIRs, circulating on social media, show that the police have applied terrorism clauses against those arrested, including former chief minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq , Chairman Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence Mushahid Hussain Syed.
Also, as the plane carrying the Sharif and Maryam landed at the Lahore airport, they were escorted by a large number of commandoes to the special plane which brought them to Rawalpindi the same evening. Our security protocols need to be revisited. You cannot apply the same operational procedure to everyone. The security procedure applied to a person of Sharif’s stature should be different from the one that has to be applied on a hardcore criminal. Irrespective of their political motives, it is a welcome sign to see the two politicians surrender before the law despite their apprehensions over the court verdict. It is bound to put pressure on people like former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who has been running away from the legal process for a long time.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2018.