Authorities in Pakistan swiftly arrested former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter and political heir, Maryam, shortly after the two landed in the eastern city of Lahore on a commercial flight from Britain on Friday.
Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) activists shout slogans as they start a journey towards Lahore to welcome former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday.
Sharif, alongside Maryam, was captured as they came back to eastern city of Lahore from London to serve a 10-year and seven-year imprison term, individually, on defilement allegations, authorities said.
Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), political party, holds his tasbih, while having tea on a plane on his way to a campaign rally ahead of general elections in Sialkot, Pakistan July 12, 2018.
Adding to the tension surrounding the upcoming poll, a suicide bomber hit an election rally of a regional party in southwestern Pakistan, killing 85 people.
Air terminal security official encompassed the Sharifs and drove them to another plane to take them to a correctional facility in Rawalpindi city close capital Islamabad.
The military denied the accusations, saying their assistance in carrying out the elections was requested by Pakistan's election commission. "We are all Pakistanis and the rule should be the same for all", he said.
The Sharifs have maintained that the cases are manufactured by their political foes and the country's powerful military. The three-time Pakistani leader was pried from office, banned from politics and finally, in an apparent coup de grace, was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for owning assets beyond his income.
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Pakistani and worldwide rights groups have accused the military of seeking to maintain its influence in Pakistani politics by keeping Sharif out of power.
As prime minister, he says he will partially model his promised anti-corruption campaign and poverty reduction programmes on China, Pakistan's traditional ally that has financed billions of dollars of infrastructure projects. Officials plan to arrest and fly Nawaz and his daughter to Islamabad after they arrive in Lahore.
The Sharifs had been visiting the United Kingdom capital of London, where Nawaz's wife Kulsoom is undergoing treatment for cancer, and had been unresponsive for several weeks, according to Maryam Nawaz.
Media reports from Pakistan claim that the two-hour-20-minute flight delay helped in mobilizing the PML-N cadre waiting at the airport, as visuals of hundreds of them on the road appeared on Pak TV channels.
Sharif's return comes at a time of dwindling fortunes for his party, which one year ago was considered a runaway favourite to retain power.
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. Sharif was disqualified as prime minister by the Supreme Court past year in the Panama Papers case.
The PML-N had been seen as favourites for re-election until recently but have appeared to lose ground to Imran Khan.
PML-N candidates have also alleged Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, is pressuring them to switch loyalties and contest the July 25 polls as independents.