LAHORE: Authorities in Pakistan have launched a massive crackdown on the PML-N activists ahead of the arrival of its supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in Lahore from London, arresting over 300 workers to stop the party's planned rally at the airport tomorrow to welcome him.
Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who were convicted by a Pakistani court in the Avenfield Apartments case and sentenced to 10 and 7 years in jail respectively, boarded a foreign flight today and will arrive in Lahore via Abu Dhabi at 6.15 pm (local time) tomorrow.
"Police have arrested more than 300 PML-N workers mostly from Lahore to stop us from welcoming our leader at the airport," Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurenzeb told PTI.
Such a massive crackdown on PML-N workers never happened even in the martial law regime, she said.
She said that despite all such tactics, the PML-N workers will reach the airport to give historic welcome to Sharif.
"We will not accept the results of the July 25 polls if pre-poll rigging is not stopped. The Election Commission of Pakistan must act and order release of our detained workers forthwith. Otherwise, we will understand that both the ECP and caretaker government are puppet and someone else is calling the shots (establishment)," PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif told reporters, in an apparent reference to the army.
The powerful army, which enjoys considerable influence over policy decisions in Pakistan, has ruled the country for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.
Shahbaz further said that PML-N opponents are given full liberty to hold rallies while section 144 has been imposed in Lahore only to stop the PML-N workers from receiving their leader.
"I will lead Friday's party rally to receive my elder brother and niece.If I am or my sons are arrested then my daughters will lead the rally," he declared.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft body - National Accountability Bureau - chairman Javed Iqbal has ordered taking all necessary measures to arrest Sharif and Maryam upon their arrival at the airport.
He has also formed a 16-member team to arrest them and shift them to Adiala Jail Rawalpindi after producing them at the accountability court that sentenced the father-daughter duo last week.
Lahore police has also placed containers on the city roads leading to the airport.
A narrow passage has been left for motorists where police have been deployed for checking.
"Over 100 police commandos will be deployed at the airport on Friday to avert any untoward incident," senior Lahore police officer Sardar Asif said.
He said the police are taking only anti-social elements into custody ahead of Sharif's arrival.
He said the arrested PML-N activists have been detained for 30 days under public order.
Before leaving for Lahore, Sharif pledged that he will liberate Pakistan from "those who are running a state above the state".
"Despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes, I am going to Pakistan," he told journalists in the British capital where his wife Kulsoom is undergoing treatment for throat cancer.
The 68-year-old leader said he was returning to the country so that he could pay back the Pakistani nation for what they had done for him: making him prime minister three times.
"I ask the people, especially women, to come out of their homes like tigers, and cross all barricades to reach the Lahore airport. No one can stop a mass gathering of the people," he said.
"We used to hear about 'a state within a state' but now things have gone to the extent that there is 'a state above the state'.
We will have to change this.
July 25 will be a defining moment in the country's history after August 14, 1947 (Independence Day)," he said, adding that Maryam and he would hear the election results in jail.
Sharif, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court last year in the Panama Papers case, is now the supremo of the PML-N.
Shahbaz and other party leaders are mobilising the party workers to reach at the airport in a large number.