On way to Lahore, Nawaz Sharif urges Pakistanis to stand by him

Sharif loyalists arrested as former PM returns to appeal conviction

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Maryam Nawaz tweeted a video message from her father after they stopped in Abu Dhabi before they travel on to Lahore.

He said he never opened his mouth on personal life of any political leader but when it came to country's solidarity he could not remain silent. "Let's build destiny of Pakistan together", he said.

Elahi said Nawaz has not learnt any lesson from his past mistakes, even after becoming the prime minister for the third time he has rendered no service to the people, pursued policies contrary to the interests of the country and the nation.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party has said it will mobilise supporters to greet his plane, but government officials have said he will be arrested as soon as he lands.

Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were sentenced to prison in a corruption case on July 6 along with Maryam Nawaz's husband Captain Safdar.

Until Thursday, the interim government had arrested over 300 PML-N workers under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance ahead of the former PM's expected arrival.

"But I'm returning to Pakistan leaving my sick wife behind", he vowed.

Following the arrests in Lahore a day earlier, a large number of PML-N workers protested outside police stations and key party leaders - Saad Rafique, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Pervaiz Malik - held an emergency press conference at 3:30am.

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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.

Turns out, Maryam will be the first convicted woman prisoner to be taken into custody by Pakistan's anti-corruption body, the Islamabad-based National Accountability Bureau (NAB), reported The News International.

Sharif was ordered jailed after failing to explain how the family acquired the London flats in a case stemming from 2016 Panama Papers revelations that showed they owned the apartments through off-shore companies.

The former prime minister and his daughter were in London, where Sharif's wife Begum Kulsoom is undergoing treatment for cancer.

Sharif's return comes at a time of dwindling fortunes for his party, which one year ago was considered a run-away favourite to retain power. Many PML-N lawmakers have also defected to Khan's party.

The kind of reception Sharif receives on the streets of Lahore will be viewed carefully in Pakistan, where political popularity is often measured by the size of rallies that politicians can attract.

"Those who think they can scare us.open your ears and hear this: we are winning this election", Shehbaz Sharif told reporters in Lahore on Thursday.

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