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Nawaz Sharif arrived, arrested, deported

Nawaz Sharif's wife says her husband was misled as he was told that he was being taken to Karachi, not Jeddah, reports Kamal Siddiqi.Counting the days

world Updated: Sep 11, 2007 05:01 IST
Kamal Siddiqi and Agencies

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was arrested and thrown out of the country hours after returning home from exile on Monday morning. Sharif, who flew in from London, was in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia in the evening.

Sharif’s four hours of homecoming were spent at the airport, the first 90 minutes in the aircraft and the rest in the airport lounge. He was then whisked away in a helicopter, which left for an unknown destination.

Soon he was headed for Jeddah. The government had bundled him out of the country. “He has been deported... he has been sent to Jeddah,” said a security official. <b1>

In London, Sharif’s wife Kulsuma alleged that her husband had been misled. “He was told he was being arrested in connection with a corruption case in Karachi many years ago,” she said. “He was under the impression he was being flown to Karachi where he would be lodged in jail, and produced before a court the next day.” It was only in the air that Sharif was informed he was being taken to Jeddah, she added.

Sharif’s lawyer said he would be moving the Supreme Court against the deportation as it contravened the court’s earlier order allowing the the brothers to return home.

Former Pakistan chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah said the deportation made a mockery of the Supreme Court decision. Experts are saying President Pervez Musharraf may have made things more difficult for himself.

The former Prime Minister, his brother Shahbaz, and other members of the Sharif clan went into exile in December 2000, after Nawaz chose exile in Saudi Arabia over imprisonment following his conviction on charges of hijacking a plane carrying General Musharraf in 1999.

Sharif told reporters in London, “I am going back to my country with the resolve to rid my motherland of problems and lawlessness caused by the policies of one man — General Pervez Musharraf.”

At the last moment he decided to leave his younger brother Shahbaz behind. He said, “If anything were to happen to me, Shahbaz would be there to do the needful.”

Travelling club class on a PIA flight – number 786, Sharif joined his party workers in the economy section five minutes before landing. The flight touched down at 8:48 am, Pakistan time. Sharif and his entourage stayed on board while other passengers disembarked.

Security personnel threw a ring around the flight as it sat on the tarmac. A team of immigration officials then entered the aircraft.

They wanted Sharif's passport, but he refused. The resulting standoff lasted two hours. Sharif then came to the VIP lounge for breakfast and talks with the government officials and representatives of the Saudi government.

Shortly, the National Accountability Bureau slapped yet another corruption case against him and arrested him. A senior investigator from Pakistan's anti-corruption body who served the warrant, Azhar Mahmood Qazi, said Sharif was being held on money-laundering and corruption charges, stemming from a sugar mill business several years ago. Sharif was accused of laundering Pakistani Rs 1,273 million (US$21.2 million), he said.

But he remained at the airport. After a while he was put on a helicopter, which took off for an unannounced destination but returned soon after. And Sharif was put on a PIA flight for Jeddah. He was back in exile.

Islamabad airport had been sealed on Sunday night and by Monday morning no vehicle was allowed to enter the premises.
Passengers were bused in from a third point while the area was cordoned off by military and police teams.

Also, as a precautionary measure, leaders of the All Parties Democracy Movement including information secretary Ahsan Iqbal, Zafar Jhagra, Tehmina Daultana, Mehmood Achakzai and others were detained earlier in the day by authorities.

Hundreds of supporters of the PML-N, the party that Nawaz Sharif heads, were also arrested. Interior minister Aftab Sherpao said that this was only precautionary action; no charges would be pressed.