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Nawaz Sharif, daughter arrested upon arrival in Lahore

Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam have been arrested upon arrival in the country ahead of the July 25 elections.

Uniformed men escorted the duo from the airplane after it touched down in the central city of Lahore at around 8:45 p.m. local time (1645 GMT) on Friday evening.

A spokesman for Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party confirmed they were detained soon afterward.

Local media reports said Sharif and his daughter were put on board another waiting aircraft to be flown out of Lahore.

A series of clashes broke out at the main highway entry point to Lahore between pro-Sharif protesters and police who had been deployed in their thousand.

Sharif’s brother, Shehbaz, led around 10,000 party supporters during a march on the city center in defiance of a citywide ban on public gatherings.

Mobile phone service had been cut off in mid-afternoon across Lahore and surrounding areas.

The country’s media regulator in a statement told local news channels to abstain from airing statements “by political leadership containing defamatory and derogatory content targeting various state institutions specifically judiciary and armed forces.”

The former premier decried the tactics ordered by the caretaker government that took over in June.

“What credibility will these elections have when the government is taking such a drastic action against our people and this crackdown is taking place all over the country?” Sharif said at the airport in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, as he waited for a connecting flight to Lahore.

Pakistan’s major political movement, the Pakistan Peoples Party, also censured the crackdown, with its prime ministerial candidate Bilawal Bhutto Zardari questioning why Sharif’s supporters would be prevented from gatherings.

“Why is Lahore under siege? Right to peaceful protest is fundamental for democracy,” tweeted Bhutto Zardari, the son of two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated at a political rally in 2007.

Adding to the tension surrounding the upcoming elections, a bomber struck an election rally of a regional party in southwestern Pakistan, killing over 100 people. The bombing was the third incident of election-related violence this week.

Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to ten years in prison on July 6 in a corruption case linked to his family’s purchase of upscale flats in London. His daughter, widely seen as his political heir, received a seven-year prison sentence.

The former prime minister has censured the court proceedings as politically motivated and a judicial witch hunt.