Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam, both sentenced to lengthy jail terms in absentia, are due to return to Pakistan on Friday in a high-stakes gamble to galvanize their beleaguered party ahead of a July 25 general election.
Sharif and his daughter Maryam were surrounded by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team on Friday, the moment Etihad Airlines flight EY 243 landed at the Allama Iqbal International Airport of Lahore at 8:48 p.m.
Pakistani and global rights groups have accused the military of seeking to maintain its influence in the country's politics by keeping Sharif out of power.
In the southwestern province of Baluchistan, a suicide bomber killed 128 people Friday, including a politician running for a provincial legislature.
"In Pakistan, leaders have to go to jail, that's important for their profile", said Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai.
On Tuesday, a bomb attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban targeted a political rally in the city of Peshawar, killing 22 people.
More than 20 years after Khan founded his political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice), the man still revered by many as captain of Pakistan's 1992 World Cup-winning cricket team, feels the stars have finally aligned for him.
After their arrest at the airport in Lahore, Sharif and his daughter were immediately put on another plane and flown to the capital Islamabad, PML-N media coordinator Muhammad Mehdi said.
Police have made arrangements to whisk them away by helicopter to Adiala Prison in Rawalpindi on their arrival.
Sharif had stepped down as prime minister in July past year after the apex court's ruling.
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"Why is Lahore under siege?"
Ahead of Sharif's return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.
Recent polling showed the PTI's popularity steadily rising and closing the gap with the PML-N.
The country's media regulator warned local news channels to abstain from airing statements "by political leadership containing defamatory and derogatory content targeting various state institutions specifically judiciary and armed forces", the regulator said in a statement.
The case, known as the Avenfield reference and related to purchase of four luxury apartments by the Sharif family in London, was one of the three corruption cases filed against Sharif and his children by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan's anti-corruption watchdog, on the Supreme Court's directions in the Panama Papers case verdict that had disqualified the former PM from office on July 28 previous year.
Sharif's PML-N expects a groundswell of support as he returns from London, where his wife Kulsoom is critically ill and undergoing cancer treatment.
The case stemmed from the Panama Papers leak that disclosed expensive and undeclared property owned by the Sharif family in London.
After the court's verdict, the remaining cases pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment, and offshore companies, including Flagship Investment Limited.
The Accountability Court, as per Geo News, has issued detainment warrants for previous Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his little girl Maryam. In May, Pakistan's Supreme Court determined he would be disqualified from holding public office in the future.
The PML-N had been seen as favourites for re-election until recently but have appeared to lose ground to Imran Khan.