Some supporters of Pakistan’s largest opposition party threw punches yesterday in clashes with police as a top leader, Maryam Nawaz, was remanded to custody on corruption charges filed by a national anti-graft agency.
Maryam, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and a scion of the family that dominated politics for three decades, was arrested on Thursday over fraud accusations at a sugar mill her family runs, one of several cases it says are politically-motivated.
“I knew that it would be a tough situation for me to launch a political struggle, but I will not budge,” Maryam told reporters shortly before she appeared in court in the city of Lahore, to be denied bail and remanded until August 21.
“The NAB has made a baseless case against me,” she added, referring to Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau.
Yousaf Abbas, a cousin of Maryam, who was also arrested by the NAB the same day, was produced before the court alongside the PML-N vice-president and remanded for 12 days.
The NAB had sought a 15-day physical remand for the two.
During the day’s hearing, NAB prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah told the court there were suspicious transactions from Maryam’s accounts.
“The NAB had twice asked Maryam to appear,” he said.
NAB prosecutor Waris Ali told the court they were investigating where the money came from in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.
“In 2008 there were 11mn shares under Maryam Nawaz’s name. We are trying to determine where the money came from,” he said.
The anti-graft agency has arrested, or wants to arrest, about a dozen members of the Sharif family, which runs the largest opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).
Some of the hundreds of party supporters gathered outside the court engaged in fistfights with police, according to eyewitnesses and video images.
Police declined to comment on the extent of the clashes.
Maryam is one of the few opposition figures to openly criticise Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s powerful military, accusing them in recent weeks of censoring rallies and news conferences held by her party.
Maryam, who led big anti-government rallies across the country, disappeared from Pakistani media last month after she made public a secretly-recorded video.
The video purported to show her father’s graft conviction had been the result of blackmail.
Reuters was not independently able to confirm the authenticity of the video.
Khan and the military deny any media ban on the party or that the cases against the family are politically-motivated.
PML-N president and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif has termed the arrest of his niece Maryam a “distraction tactic” as he accused the government of resorting to such measures in an attempt to hide its “failed” policy on the Kashmir dispute.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Sharif condemned the arrest of the PML-N vice-president.
“Maryam was arrested in front of her father and uncle. Hamza Shehbaz and Maryam Nawaz’s arrests prove once again that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is complicit with the National Accountability Bureau,” Sharif said, amid uproar from the parliamentarians in attendance.
“Maryam’s arrest is an attempt to distract [everyone] from the government’s failed policy on Kashmir,” the opposition leader said. “It’s a tactic to distract from the sinking economy, from the crashing stock market.”
“Imran Khan is mistaken if he thinks he can pressure us with such cruel tactics,” he vowed. “They are pushing us against the wall, but we won’t be pushed back.”