Jul 12, 2018 18:50 UTC
  • Pakistani police arrest ex-PM Sharif's supporters ahead of his return from UK

Pakistani police have detained hundreds of supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in eastern Punjab province ahead of the ousted leader's return from London.

Pakistan-Muslim League (PML-N), the former ruling party, said Thursday scores of its members had been detained in Lahore and other major cities of the province over the past few hours. Police said about 100 were detained "to avoid violence."

“We received instructions to take prominent PML-N activists from their areas to avoid a law and order problem,” media outlets quoted an unnamed police official as saying.

Muhammad Mehdi, the party’s media coordinator, said that nearly 500 workers had been detained in a “massive crackdown”, including raids on the homes of some of the party’s local councilors.

Mustafain Shah, a PML-N official, said police began monitoring his house and the residences of a number of other party activists on Wednesday night. “I left my house last night and am hiding at a friend’s house,” he said.

Shaukat Javed, the Punjab government’s caretaker law minister, said his office had not ordered the detentions.

“Punjab government has not issued any kind of instructions to police for a crackdown against PML-N activists,” he said.

The arrests came a day before Sharif was due to return to Pakistan where he faces arrest. The crackdown on workers will make it harder for them to stage rallies on Sharif’s return.

A Pakistani court on Friday handed down a 10-year jail term to Sharif in a corruption case linked to his family's purchase of upscale flats in London. 

Sharif was jailed as his family could not explain how they obtained funds to purchase four luxury flats in London's exclusive Hyde Park area.