LAHORE, Pakistan — Disgraced ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be whisked away by helicopter to the federal capital of Islamabad when he returns Friday to Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore from London to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges.
Sharif, set to arrive at 6 p.m., will be accompanied by his daughter Mariam, who was sentenced to seven years in prison. The two were in London visiting Sharif’s ailing wife when a Pakistani court convicted them of corruption and sent them to prison.
Sharif’s son-in-law is currently serving his one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in Britain that the court said were bought with illegally gotten money.
Sharif is expected to appeal his conviction and seek bail.
Ahead of his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.
In a video message Friday reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison.
Sharif has been banned from participating in politics, and his brother Shahbaz Sharif now heads his Pakistan Muslim League and is fighting for re-election on July 25.
In a televised appeal to supporters from London earlier this week, Sharif said he was not afraid of prison and asked people to vote for his party. He also used the opportunity to again criticize Pakistan’s powerful military, which has ruled the country directly or indirectly for most of its 71-year history, saying Pakistan now has a “state above state.”
During his term in office, Sharif had criticized the military’s involvement in civilian affairs and its efforts in fighting extremists.
Pakistani and international rights groups have accused the military of seeking to maintain its influence in Pakistani politics by keeping Sharif out of power. The military denied the accusations saying their assistance in carrying out the elections was requested by Pakistan’s Election Commission. The army will deploy 350,000 security personnel to polling stations throughout the country on election day.