Nawaz Sharif reaches Lahore to serve jail term

Pakistani policemen escort a car transporting Pakistani former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as it arrives at Kot Lakhpat prison, a day after the anti-corruption court sentenced him to seven years in prison, in Lahore on Dec. 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 December 2018

Nawaz Sharif reaches Lahore to serve jail term

  • Has been sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case
  • Conviction is ‘politically-motivated’, ex-PM Abbasi tells Arab News

LAHORE: Three-time former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was moved to the Kot Lakhpat Jail on Tuesday to begin his seven-year jail term in the high-security zone of the prison.
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) supremo was awarded the sentence on charges of corruption and for setting up a steel mill in Saudi Arabia where he and his family had been residing in exile after being removed from office in a bloodless military coup.
Sharif was taken into custody on Monday evening after an accountability court’s judge announced the verdict. He was, however, acquitted in another corruption case filed against him in the same court
It is the second conviction handed down to Sharif in the past six months after he was sentenced to 10 years in jail in the Avenfield London flats corruption case.
His daughter, Maryam Nawaz, was also jailed for seven years in the same case while his son-in-law, Safdar Awan, was jailed for one year. The two are out on bail after the Islamabad High Court ordered their release after suspending the conviction.
Meanwhile, top PML-N leaders termed the convictions as a politically-motivated move to oust Sharif out of the active political arena.
“It is another dark decision against the politicians of Pakistan that will neither be endorsed by the masses nor history. The politicians are being victimized for the last 70 years. The PML-N is avoiding the politics of aggression for the longevity of the parliament and democracy but the system cannot afford such practices anymore,” former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Arab News.
Sharif spent the night at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail and was flown to Lahore on Tuesday morning after the court accepted his request to be moved to Lahore due to his medical condition.
Sharif suffers from a heart condition and it was easier for his doctors and family members to meet him in Lahore.
“The conviction is baseless as the prosecution did not have any documentary evidence against Nawaz Sharif. They even did not produce a single witness against him (Nawaz). It is a politically motivated decision,” Raja Zafarul Haq, PML-N Chairman, told Arab News.
Sharif has been moved to a high-security zone where he has been given a separate room with a small garden attached. 
The Punjab government also approved a request for a ‘better class’ in jail for Sharif making him eligible to get a mattress, a study table and chair, a TV set, and access to newspapers during his stay.
The aircraft which flew in the former premier landed at Lahore airport in the early hours of the day where a special team of law enforcement agencies took him to the Kot Lakhpat Jail amid tight security. 
A number of PML-N workers gathered at the PECO Railway Crossing, enroute to the jail, and chanted slogans in favor of their leader.
PML-N legislators and party workers also celebrated Sharif’s birthday on December 25 before leaving the venue. 
Jail sources, requesting anonymity, told Arab News that Sharif was taken to a hospital on the premises after being registered as a prisoner. The jail doctor conducted his medical examination before pronouncing him completely fit.
Sharif’s younger brother and PML-N president, Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, is also behind bars in the same facility.
Authorities have taken tight security measures by setting up a check post on the road leading to the prison where Sharif is lodged.

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

Updated 14 September 2020

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

  • Leaving corporate security behind, Maria Soomro has traveled solo around the country since the pandemic began
  • She documents her travels and uses YouTube and Instagram to provide tips on how to solo travel as a woman

RAWALPINDI: A few months ago, while doing a stable job in the banking sector, Maria Soomro decided to act on her gut instinct and leave behind the monotony and routine of her daily life to follow her dream of hitchhiking around Pakistan. 

30-year-old Soomro hails from Karachi and has been working in the banking sector since completing her university education. The corporate job gave her 40 days of annual leave which she utilized for travel, though she felt that something was missing. 

“I wasn’t fully able to immerse myself in enjoyment or the experience,” she told Arab News over the phone while traveling through Gilgit-Baltistan. “When I travel, I go to remote villages, off-the-beaten-path type places and get to know the locals, actually spend some time understanding where I am and who I am surrounded by. Five or 15 days don’t allow for that.” 

The idea of spending time doing what she loved as opposed to sitting at a desk kicked Soomro into high-gear. “I opted to turn the documenting of my travels, which I had been doing since 2015 on Instagram (@MariaSoomro_) and eponymous YouTube channel, into my full-time job.” 

Maria Soomro smiles for the camera in a ride she hitched near Burzil Pass, part of the historic caravan route between Srinagar and Gilgit on her Instagram page on September 11, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

In March of this year, Soomro headed out on her hitchhiking journey. Being a solo female traveler in Pakistan is a steadily growing trend, though a woman who hitchhikes is almost unheard of.

 “Budget traveling is my focus. The largest chunk of your budget ends up being spent on accommodation and transportation, and both of these things can be covered when you’re hitchhiking,” said Soomro. 

But her travel ethos is another reason hitchhiking was so attractive. To her, there is no better way than this to know the places one is traveling through. 

“This is a shortcut to get to know local communities, be it Pakistan or another country. When you ask for a lift, you get a special introduction to their home, their points of view, and you learn from them,” she said, adding that one can build contacts as a bonus who can be assets to solo travelers. 

Soomro estimates that her hitchhiking adventure has allowed her to meet over 300 people, all of whom, she maintains, contact through social media. “The more people you meet the more stories you hear and the more people you can share your own story with,” said she. 

Maria Soomro shares tips and tricks on solo travel including how to keep one's tent from blowing away in a shot she shares from Golden Beach, Balochistan, on her Instagram page on June 14, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

Instead of merely asking for a lift, Soomro has taken each ride as an opportunity to educate on what hitchhiking is, why she is doing it, and why she is traveling Pakistan. 

“It’s not very common here and I want to change that. The general consensus is that Pakistan is not safe, in particular for women, to travel alone.” 

When asked about how safe she has felt while traveling, Soomro said she follows “her gut instinct, assessing each ride” but also stressed the importance of “being prepared,” such as carrying personal protection equipment like pepper spray and knife. 

“My advice to Pakistanis who want to follow into my footsteps would be to take time to understand this kind of travel first and do not go straight for hitching,” she said. “Travel in groups and learn the areas you want to visit, know how roads work and, like any other passion, take time to educate yourself.” 

Soomro is doing her part in educating travel hopefuls on her YouTube channel and Instagram page with tips on how to hitchhike, where to go, and how to pitch a tent to withstand winds and what type of rides to expect around the country at present. 

“There are very few people who follow their passion in the world, and I am one of those crazy people since I thought I could do it,” said Soomro. “I am a free bird and travel is a part of me. I can’t imagine my life without this.”