Nawaz Sharif, daughter board flight to Lahore

PML-N workers protest outside a police station

Authorities deployed 10,000 policemen and blocked several roads in Lahore hours ahead of their arrival.

Local police official Naveed Shah told Reuters his current orders did not include restricting people's movements, but that could change when supporters of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party take to the streets.

PML-N has also been riven by internal divisions.

Maryam said the court verdict was not unexpected, while Nawaz earlier alleged a judicial witch-hunt against him and his party was being carried out by the Pakistani military while the country suffers from rising tension between the civil government and the army. They stopped over in Abu Dhabi before heading to Lahore.

All the arrangement to shift the convicts in Adiala jail through helicopter have been completed and even the accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir has been asked to reach there.

The arrest will be a blow to Sharif's PML-N party, which is contesting a July 25 general election as the incumbent party, but alleges that it has been the victim of "political engineering" by its opponents during the campaign. He also used the opportunity to again criticize Pakistan's powerful military, which has ruled the country directly or indirectly for most of its 71-year history, saying Pakistan now has a "state above the state". The military denied the accusations, and said its assistance had been requested by Pakistan's election commission.

"We will host a warm welcome for Nawaz Sharif". "That is why he is willing to lose 10 years of his life over this". Earlier they flew to the UAE capital from London, where Sharif's ailing wife is hospitalised.

Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), speaks during a news conference in Islamabad on Monday.

Sharif's return comes at a time of dwindling fortunes for his party, which one year ago was considered a runaway favourite to retain power.

Khan has painted Sharif as a "criminal" who has looted the state for decades, and welcomes his prison term as overdue accountability. The case against them, involving London properties owned by the Sharif family, also resulted in fines of eight million pounds for Nawaz and two million pounds for Maryam. "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. They both deny wrongdoing.

More than 300 leaders and members of the PML-N have been detained in a widespread crackdown on the party's activists in Lahore ahead of Nawaz and Maryam's arrival, according to local media.

The plane carrying Sharif, the supremo of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz, and Maryam landed at Lahore's Allama Iqbal Airport at 9:15 IST, almost three hours late from the scheduled arrival.

The PML-N workers joined in the rally from different points in Lahore. Sections of the party oppose Sharif's combative approach against the army, and fear it will turn off voters in a deeply conservative and patriotic Muslim nation of 208 million people.

The flight carrying the Sharifs landed in the central city of Lahore just before 9 p.m. (1600 GMT) as security forces were stationed around the city to prevent mass demonstrations by their political supporters.

"Those who think they can scare us.open your ears and hear this: we are winning this election", Shehbaz Sharif told reporters in Lahore on Thursday.

The security situation has improved in recent years in nuclear-armed Pakistan, but the substantial threat still posed by militants was starkly illustrated by the attack on an election rally of a regional party in Baluchistan province, in southwestern Pakistan, that killed 128 people.

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