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Sharif aide says jail conditions ‘deplorable’

Rashid predicts win for his party if elections are not rigged

Gulf News

Islamabad: Campaigning is intensifying ahead of the national elections in Pakistan despite election-related violence, and the spokesperson for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party said Sharif was being held in deplorable conditions awaiting the outcome of his appeal on a 10-year prison sentence for corruption.

Pervaiz Rashid, spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, visited Sharif in prison on Thursday where he said the conditions in which the former premier was being held are “deplorable.”

Sharif is being held amid increasing political tensions ahead of the July 25 parliamentary vote.

Sharif “is being held in solitary confinement and his daughter, who is also being held at the same jail, was allowed to see him for the first time today” after six days, Rashid said. He gave no additional details.

Shahbaz Sharif, who now heads the Pakistan Muslim League party, claimed Wednesday that his brother was forced to sleep on the floor of his cell on his first night in jail.

Analysts say longtime politician and popular former cricket star Imran Khan enjoys the backing of the country’s powerful military, which has ruled the country directly or indirectly for most of its 71-year history. Imran aspires to become prime minister.

Rashid predicted, however, that his party will win the vote if elections are not rigged.

Sharif, ousted from office by the country’s Supreme Court last July, faces trial on several corruption charges.

In June, his daughter Maryam Nawaz was also sentenced to seven years in the same case stemming from documents leaked from a Panama law firm. Both were sentenced in absentia while in Britain, and were arrested when they returned home to serve their jails terms.

On Thursday, dozens of Sharif’s supporters holding flowers gathered outside the Adiala Jail in the garrison city of Rawalpindi to see him. They chanted slogans in favour of Sharif, calling him a ‘lion,’ which is the election symbol of his party as well.

Sharif’s party has alleged military intelligence forced some of its candidates to join Khan’s party, a charge the army denies.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, travelled to the eastern Punjab province to run the campaigns of his party’s candidates. On Thursday, he told reporters that his party will do well if the playing field is level. Without naming anyone, Zardari alleged that Imran was being “facilitated” by the country’s institutions.

The young Zardari is trying to revive support for his Pakistan People’s Party, which once had a strong following in Punjab, the country’s largest province. His party still enjoys an edge over other political parties in his home province of Sindh in the south.

The results of the vote in Punjab province will likely determine who forms the next government. Khan and Sharif’s parties face tough competition from each other in Punjab, where Sharif’s party ruled since 2008’s elections.

Politicians have continued their election campaign despite last week’s attacks on separate candidate rallies in which 153 people were killed.


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