PML-N: Police arrest party workers ahead of Sharif’s return to Pakistan

Supporters of the Pakistan-Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) who were arrested after holding a rally to obstruct the arrest of Mohammad Safdar, son-in-law of of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are handcuffed and escorted by police after they were appeared before district court in Rawalpindi, Pakisan on July 11, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 July 2018
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PML-N: Police arrest party workers ahead of Sharif’s return to Pakistan

  • The police are accused of violating Pakistan’s constitution, which grants freedom of assembly and expression to all citizens
  • The deputy inspector general of Lahore’s police says precautionary measures are being taken to help the Election Commission of Pakistan hold peaceful general elections

ISLAMABAD: Police in Punjab arrested hundreds of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) workers from various cities in the province on Thursday, said Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, the party’s central information secretary.

“Hundreds of our workers have been arrested from Lahore, Rawalpindi and other districts in a police crackdown,” he told Arab News on Thursday.

The arrests took place a day before former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were due to return from London.

They have said they will arrive in Lahore on Friday evening, a week after being sentenced to 10 and seven years in prison in a graft case, respectively.

Local party leaders have vowed to give them a grand welcome upon their arrival, and the PML-N has directed its workers to go to the airport in large numbers.

 Khan said Punjab’s caretaker government had resorted to undemocratic means to dampen the spirit of PML-N workers who wanted to receive their leaders at the airport.

“We’re peaceful people, and it’s our democratic right to welcome Nawaz Sharif and Maryam at the airport,” he said, adding that several local government representatives were arrested.

Lahore’s administration alone had passed orders to arrest more than 300 PML-N workers before the arrival of Sharif and his daughter, Khan said. 

“Local administrations across Punjab are creating hurdles for our workers to reach Lahore. This is totally unacceptable in a democracy,” he added.

The deputy inspector general of Lahore police, Shahzad Akbar, on Thursday said police were taking precautionary measures to help the Election Commission of Pakistan hold the July 25 general elections peacefully.

He added that the Home Department had provided a list of agitating political workers to officers to ensure their house arrest, and to arrest those who were guilty of violating section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which prohibits assembly of five or more people.

Sharif and his daughter have been in London since June 14 to attend to his ailing wife Kalsoom Nawaz.

Prof. Tahir Malik, a political analyst and academic, said: “People cannot be stopped from exercising their democratic right of assembly.” 

The arrest of PML-N workers will only increase public sympathy for Sharif and his daughter, Malik added, urging Punjab’s government to remain neutral.

“Its partiality will put a question mark over the credibility of elections in the province,” he said.

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, a political analyst and professor at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, said the police crackdown on PML-N workers will raise questions about pre-poll rigging.

“If political wrangling continues until polling day, this will put a very serious question mark on the results of the elections,” he told Arab News. 

“In any democracy, people come out on the streets to protest when their freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are curtailed.”


UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

Updated 56 min 57 sec ago
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UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

  • The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4
  • The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades

LONDON: Junior foreign ministers from Britain and Russia met in Germany on Saturday in the highest-level contact between the two countries since an alleged nerve agent attack in Britain last March froze diplomatic relations.
Britain’s Minister for Europe Alan Duncan held talks with Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, according to the foreign office in London.
“Alan underlined that we have deep differences, and the Russian state would need to choose a different path and act as a responsible international partner before there can be a change in our current relationship with Russia,” it said in a statement.
The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 which Britain has blamed on Moscow.
The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades.
The attack killed a British woman who came into contact with the Novichok, as well as injuring several others including a policeman.
Among a raft of responses, London suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the two countries, and canceled ministers and members of the royal family attending last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“(The) minister reiterated the UK’s and Allies’ firm stance in response to the Russian state’s reckless use of chemical weapons in Salisbury,” the foreign office added in its statement.
“He made clear that Russia must address the concerns of the international community.
“This includes ending its destabilising activity in Ukraine; and the persecution of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”
The foreign office said Britain would continue to “build and strengthen our cultural ties and people to people links with Russia wherever we can.”
Ministers from around the world, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, are taking part in several days of talks in Munich this weekend centered on global security issues.