Nawaz Sharif lands back in jail as six-week bail expires

Former Pakistani Prime minister Nawaz Sharif (centre L) sits in a car as he heads back to Kot Lakpat Jail in Lahore on May 7, 2019, following the expiry of his bail. Nawaz Sharif will return to jail later on May 6 following the expiry of his six-week bail in a corruption case. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2019

Nawaz Sharif lands back in jail as six-week bail expires

  • Surrenders before prison authorities around midnight
  • Thanks party leaders and supporters for leading ‘solidarity rally’ to escort him to jail

LAHORE: Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif surrendered before prison authorities in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday as the six-week bail granted to him on medical grounds expired at midnight.
On May 3, the Supreme Court rejected an application by the three-time prime minister for an extension in bail granted on March 26. At midnight, as the day turned from Tuesday to Wednesday, Sharif was taken into custody by the Deputy Superintendent of the jail and shifted to a room specially prepared for him.

A team of Kot Lakhpat Jail officials arrived at the residence of the former prime minister in the afternoon and asked him to surrender but party leaders rejected the demand, saying the bail period technically expired on May 7.
“Sharif’s narrative is becoming popular and remains unchanged,” senior vice president of the party and the former prime minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, told Arab News. “The masses have rejected the government version against Nawaz Sharif as they know the reality; that he is committed to the supremacy of institutions and is sacrificing for the better future of the nation.”
Earlier in the day, Attaullah Tarrar, PMLN deputy secretary general, told Arab News about the PMLN’s plans to escort Sharif to jail in a ‘solidarity rally.’
“Mian Sahib will leave for jail after iftar,” Tarrar said, referring to the sundown meal in which practicing Muslims break their fast in the month of Ramadan. The PML-N had set up ten welcome camps on the route to the jail and given a call to party workers and supporters to gather at the Sharif family’s residence to march toward the jail in solidarity with their leader, Tarrar said.

Sharif was handed a seven-year sentence last year for failing to reveal the source of income that allowed him to set up a steel factory in Saudi Arabia. He has appealed the sentence, which has also barred him for life from holding public office.
“I am thankful to the workers of my party who traveled with me till midnight,” Sharif told his supporters in a message recorded minutes before his surrender. “With the prayers of my workers the dark night of injustice will end soon. My workers know why I am being sent to jail.”
Sharif says all charges against him are politically motivated. In November last year, he returned to Pakistan from London to face trial in anti-corruption cases he calls political revenge but which opposition leaders have termed as accountability for the rich and powerful.
On Tuesday, Sharif party leaders and supporters gathered outside his Jati Umra residence and chanted slogans in his favor and against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. They then moved in the form of a ‘solidarity rally’ behind the car in which he was traveling with his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party.
The PML-N had requested Lahore authorities to make security arrangements for the rally but not received any response as yet, party leaders said, adding that would continue with plans for the rally.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court removed Sharif from office for not disclosing part of a salary drawn from his son’s company. He was later convicted in two separate cases of failing to disclose sources of income. In one of these cases revolving the ownership of upscale London properties, the high court suspended a 10-year sentence and granted bail last September until a final decision was made on his appeal application against the conviction. The appeal process in both cases is continuing.

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.”