Police open criminal cases against 17,000 members of Pakistan’s outgoing ruling party

ArticlesThe return of Nawaz Sharif

Judge Bashir, who convicted the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, has withdrawn himself from hearing the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metals Establishment and Flagship and other references.

A general view of the Adiala jail, where according to media, ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were brought after their arrest from Lahore, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan July 14, 2018.

The PML-N Lahore rally, which failed to reach the airport as it was several kilometres away when the plane of Nawaz Sharif landed, ended at late last night.

Sharif's return represents a high-stakes gamble, but could shake up an election race driven by accusations Pakistan's powerful military is working behind the scenes to skew the contest in favor of ex-cricket hero Imran Khan.

In its statement, the Human Rights Commission said candidates from Sharif's party, as well as the left-leaning Pakistan People's Party and the secular Awami Workers party, "have reported being harassed by law enforcement and security personnel during their campaign, their movements monitored or restricted without good reason and their election banners removed without cause".

Sharif and his daughter were sentenced in absentia to 10 years and seven years in prison respectively for failing to explain how they acquired expensive properties in London.

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"We are taking action against PML-N leaders", the caretaker home minister of Punjab, Shaukat Javed, told Reuters on Sunday. She said that level playing field should be provided to all political parties including PML-N.

Sharif's return comes at a time of dwindling fortunes for his party, which a year ago was considered a run-away favourite to retain power. Sharif and members of his family were charged with corruption in connection with the purchase of luxury apartments in London's Park Lane.

Recent opinion polls suggest PML-N has lost its lead nationally to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of arch-rival Khan, whose anti-corruption message has resonated with many Pakistanis.

The former prime minister has however claimed the charges and subsequent court ruling was part of a conspiracy to deny his party a second term after the July 25 elections.

The run-up to the vote has been marred by a string of election-related bombings that have killed at least 160 people, including a candidate during an election rally in southwestern Balochistan Province last week.

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