Thousands rally behind Sharif as he heads to prison


TRACKING>>Thousands of supporters rallied behind Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he set out for prison on Tuesday after his temporary release for heart treatment expired.

Sharif, who is serving a seven-year jail term since December after being convicted of corruption, was granted the six-week release in March.

His appeal for a two-month extension was rejected last week.

Sharif met political aides at his residence in Lahore before beginning the journey to the jail.

Thousands of activists from his Pakistan Muslim League party chanted slogans and waved to Sharif as his car drove out of the sprawling villa late in the evening.

Television footage shows supporters walking beside Sharif’s car and trying to catch a glimpse of the former leader.

The regional government deployed more than 3,000 police and paramilitary troops for security, provincial information Minister, Samsam Bukhari, said.

Sharif remains Pakistan’s most popular political leader in spite of his removal by the Supreme Court in 2017 on corruption allegations emanating from the 2016 Panama Papers leak detailing offshore tax evasion schemes.

The three-time premier’s party lost to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s group in 2018 elections tainted by allegations of manipulation by the country’s powerful military.

Sharif, known as an advocate for civilian supremacy in a country ruled by generals for decades, has rough relations with the military and the judiciary.

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