Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were arrested tonight upon their return to the country after their conviction in one of the three corruption cases against the powerful political family, less than two weeks before the country goes to polls.
According to an airport official, they surrendered before a team of the country's anti-graft body -- The National Accountability Bureau -- without any resistance.
"They will be transported to Islamabad by an helicopter," he said.
According to media reports, dozens of security officials entered the plane after it landed and asked other passengers to leave. The duo's passports were seized by a three-member FIA team, and both were permitted to meet Begum Shamim Akhtar, Sharif's mother, in the Haj Lounge.
Both Sharif, 68, and Maryam, 44, have been sentenced by an accountability court to 10 and 7 years in prison respectively.
The Sharif family is now facing two more corruption cases in the accountability court Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets.
Sharif's PML-N party, led by its President and Sharif's younger brother Shahbaz, today managed to take out a rally despite imposition of section 144 that bars assembly of more than five people.
Earlier, media reports and an official of the Civil Aviation Authority had said their plane was diverted to Islamabad to avoid any law and order situation in Lahore as a large number of the PML-N workers were heading in hundreds of vehicles to the city to cheer up their leader.
The rally kicked off at the Lohari Gate in the afternoon and could manage to proceed a few kilometers as party workers struggled to remove cargo containers on their way.
Close to the airport, Sharif's supporters clashed with police which otherwise did not stop them from removing containers.
"It appears the Punjab caretaker government had reached a deal with the of PML-N withdrawing thousands of policemen to give a free hand to reach close to the Lahore airport and wind up the rally," a senior police officer told PTI.
"We have orders from our top command not to take action against the PML-N rally participants," he said.
The PML-N workers joined in the rally from different points in Lahore.
Wearing a shirt with Sharif's picture on it, Muraz Ali had come all his way from Bahalwapur, some 400km from Lahore, to participate in the rally.
"I love Nawaz Sharif. I am even ready to sacrifice my life for him. I will go on fast if my leader is arrested," Ali said.
Talking to reporters before reaching the airport, Shahbaz said "a sea of people" has turned up today to give historic reception to Sharif.
"The people of Lahore has given a verdict ahead of July 25 polls," he declared. "I am thankful to the people of Lahore for coming out in such a huge number," he said, adding that the people have rejected the decision of the court to convict Sharif and Maryam.
Speaking to the BBC at Abu Dhabi airport as he waited to change planes, Sharif said: "What credibility will these elections have when the government is taking such drastic action against our people and this crackdown is taking place all over the country?"
In a video message, tweeted by Maryam, the former premier urged his followers to stand with him and "change the fate of the country".
"The country is at a critical juncture right now," a grim looking Sharif said.
"I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years [in prison] and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away. But I want the Pakistani nationals to know that I am doing this for you," he said.
Sharif has been one of the country's leading politicians for most of the past 30 years. He remains popular, especially in Punjab, the most populous and electorally significant province.
He and his party have accused the military of being behind his conviction, saying it is going after the PML-N for its criticism of the security establishment.
The military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its 70-year history, has denied it has any "direct role" in the elections or the political process.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)