Nawaz Sharif visits Data Darbar 2-days before his return to jail

LAHORE: Two days before his scheduled return to prison barracks, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited the shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajveri, better known as Data Sahib, here on Sunday.

Amid strict security, he offered Fateha, laid chador on the patron-saint’s grave and remained standing close to it for some time keeping his eyes shut.

It was an unusual activity of the PML-N supremo as the last time he had visited the shrine about four years ago, when he was prime minister, at Urs time to lay chador at the grave then. However, his daughter Maryam Nawaz used to visit the shrine more often than not.

Observers believe that the ex-premier’s pilgrimage was aimed at affecting opinion of the masses about himself and his party, which remained under attack by some religious circles on account of a change of word in the Elections Bill, 2017 about oath.

Those close to the family say that as Mr Sharif used to perform Umrah and visit Madina in Ramazan each year, but this time he will have to skip his decades-long routine on completion of his bail period on May 7 so he decided to at least visit some local religious place.

An accountability court had on Dec 24, 2018 handed down Mr Sharif seven-year jail term and Rs1.5 billion fine in the Al-Azizia reference. He was imprisoned in Adiyala Jail and shifted to Kot Lakhpat Jail on his request.

He was granted bail for six weeks by the Supreme Court to afford him an opportunity to get treatment of his choice in the country for his complicated heart and kidney disease.

The bail expires on May 7 as the apex court rejected his review petition seeking permission to go abroad for the treatment.

Party official say the former prime minister would be taken to the prison in a big procession as the PML-N leadership wants to use the occasion to also show its power.

An official told media that the event would also be a response to the criticism made by many against the party in which it is stated that the N-League neither has had the wish nor strength to protest on roads as the general public do not respond to its call.

He said the party cadre has been directed to mobilise the masses and also make arrangements for Iftar of those who are likely to join the procession.

Newly-appointed Punjab PML-N information secretary Azma Zahid Bukhari, however, says it won’t be show of power but show of love the party members and masses had for their supreme leader.