Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam, sentenced to jail for corruption, are likely to be arrested mid-air, even before they land in Lahore on Friday evening, reports suggested.
The father-daughter duo, both sentenced to lengthy jail terms in absentia, are due to return to Pakistan later today in a high-stakes gamble to galvanise their beleaguered party ahead of a July 25 general election.
The duo, who are convicted in Avenfield reference case, will stay at the Abu Dhabi airport for seven hours and will reach Lahore at 6.15pm (2.15 United Kingdom time), sources said.
Ahead of his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.
Security has been tightened and over 10,000 police officers have been deployed at Lahore airport where Sharif's plane from London is scheduled to land.
"I am leaving behind my ailing wife to come back for the sake of the country", said Nawaz, adding that Kulsoom had briefly opened her eyes but "she did not recognize me".
"Nawaz really believes this is about democracy and his legacy", Musadik Malik, Sharif ally and former PML-N cabinet minister, told Reuters.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday ordered the release of PML-N workers illegally detained by law enforcement agencies by 2pm today. "If they will be sent to jail, then I will also go with them", Sharif's mother said.
In a televised appeal to supporters from London earlier this week, Sharif said he was not afraid of prison and asked people to vote for his party.
Sharif's son-in-law is now serving his one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in Britain that the court said were bought with illegally gotten money.
Turns out, Maryam will be the first convicted woman prisoner to be taken into custody by Pakistan's anti-corruption body, the Islamabad-based National Accountability Bureau (NAB), reported The News International.
The military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half its history since 1947, has denied interfering in modern-day politics. Many PML-N lawmakers have also defected to Khan's party. Shahbaz Sharif is expected to lead a rally to Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport to receive Nawaz Sharif and his daughter.
PML-N leaders claimed that around 300 workers were arrested from Rawalpindi on Tuesday, while several hundred others had been picked up from Lahore and other cities.