Well, that’s that – Sharif is back in Jeddah after taking the long route “home” from London. I am curious to see what type of restrictions Saudi puts on its “guest”. It will be interesting to see how the Kingom spins everything when CJ Chaudry says the deportation was against the law. I guess its a fair deal – Saudi keeps Sharif in Jeddah and Mush keeps UBL in the NWFP.
JEDDAH/ISLAMABAD, 11 September 2007 — In a day of high political drama, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was deported to Saudi Arabia hours after he landed in Pakistan following seven years in exile.
About four hours after he arrived in Islamabad on a Pakistan International Airlines flight from London, Sharif was taken into custody, charged with corruption and then quickly taken to another plane and flown to Jeddah.
At King Abdul Aziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jeddah, Sharif was accorded treatment that is normally reserved for former prime ministers. He was received at the airport by Prince Muqrin, chief of intelligence, and a number of other officials.
An official statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency said: “Nawaz Sharif will stay in the Kingdom as a guest. The Kingdom welcomes him again after his return to Islamabad, disregarding his pledge that he will stay away from Pakistan and politics.”
Muhammad ibn Ahmed Tayeb, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s office in the Makkah Region, defended Saudi mediation saying it was aimed at safeguarding the interests of the Pakistani people and protecting the country’s stability.
Tayeb underscored the long-standing historic relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. “The Kingdom’s main concern is the security, peace and stability of Pakistan… We consider Pakistan a strategic ally,” Tayeb told Arab News.
Sharif looked tired after a long journey and from Jeddah’s royal airport, he was taken to a palatial residence that he owns in the city’s Al-Hamra district. Outside, there was a large number of supporters. Saudi security forces stood guard and would not allow journalists access to the area.
Photographers, who were offered as much as $1,500 by world photo agencies for a picture of Sharif in Jeddah, were prevented from taking any shots.
Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of Nawaz Sharif, who stayed in London, said his party would submit a petition to the Supreme Court in order to challenge the deportation. “This will be counted as the blackest day in Pakistan’s history,” he said. “I do not have words to describe my grief.”
In Islamabad, Sharif supporters battled with police in the morning on roads leading to the airport that authorities had blockaded with trucks, tractors and barbed wire. No one was able to get close to the airport.
Immediately upon his flight’s landing, Sharif was surrounded by commandos inside the plane and then taken to the airport’s VIP lounge, where a senior investigator from the country’s anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau, served an arrest warrant.
The investigator, Azhar Mahmood Qazi, said Sharif was being arrested on money-laundering and corruption charges stemming from a sugar mill business several years ago. “Musharraf is capable of doing anything,” Sharif told reporters as the events were unfolding. “He could impose martial law, but if he does, he will be the first casualty because the country will not accept that, the people will not accept that and I think the rank and file of the army will not accept that.”
Outside the airport, police fired tear gas at Sharif’s supporters who threw rocks. Several people were injured.
Senior opposition leaders were put under house arrest. They included Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Liaquat Baloch and Pakistan Muslim League (N) leaders Javed Hashmi, Raja Zafarul Haq and Ahsan Iqbal. Former President Rafiq Tarar was also arrested.
Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema said the leaders were arrested “to ensure the maintenance of public order,” under a regulation that allows authorities to detain suspects for up to three months without charge.
The Pakistani government defended Sharif’s deportation claiming it was in the supreme interest of the country. “Sharif’s deportation is in accordance with law,” Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said.
Speaking to Arab News from London, Kulsum Nawaz said her husband was disappointed but still in high spirits. “It would have been naive to expect anything else from Musharraf.”
At Islamabad airport, she said her husband had been given the impression that he was being taken to Karachi. “But instead the plane took him to Jeddah where he is tired and now resting after two long journeys.”
Hasan Sharif described his father’s deportation as a bad day in the history of Pakistan.
“My father is very disappointed, but he has lost none of his enthusiasm. He is a very courageous man. Everybody witnessed what he did today.” He said his father would try again to go back to his homeland.
The European Union criticized the deportation. “If there is any legal case against Mr. Sharif, he should have a chance to defend himself in a Pakistani court,” said EU spokeswoman Christiane Hohmann.
The United States also rebuked Islamabad. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the decision to deport Sharif went against the Pakistan Supreme Court’s view that the former premier had the right to return and the government should not try to stop him. – AN