KARACHI: For the first time, the Sharif family has taken substantial measures to beef up the security of former prime minister and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif. The move comes weeks after Mr Sharif’s fiery speech against the government and his criticism of the military establishment’s alleged interference in political matters. It also coincides with Mr Sharif’s return to active politics.
On Thursday, four local bodyguards were reported to have reached Hasan Nawaz’s office at Stanhope House, from where Nawaz Sharif addressed the Pakistan Democratic Movement rally in Gujranwala via a video link.
Throughout the day, the privately hired guards were stationed close to the office, where nearly three party workers had gathered.
Family sources insist arrangements not connected to PTI protests
Back at the Sharif residence at Avenfield, privately hired guards with vehicles bearing the sign “dog security unit” were seen during the day. Two guards with sniffer dogs were stationed on Dunraven Street, where Avenfield House is situated. The same guards earlier stood outside the gate of their residence with the bodyguards.
The visible presence of security outside his home and the office premises spurred speculations that the Sharif family has hired guards in case a security incident takes place in the situation that PTI activists stage a protest in London.
Led by Sahibzada Jahangir, who is the spokesperson for Prime Minister Imran Khan on trade and investment in the UK and Europe, PTI activists gathered outside Stanhope Place in the afternoon carrying anti-PML-N posters and shouting slogans against Nawaz Sharif. They were met with strong anti-Imran Khan and anti-PTI sloganeering by PML-N activists. Workers from both parties heckled each other but maintained a non-violent protest.
Mr Jahangir told Dawn that he is approaching the office premises to protest against Nawaz Sharif with “200 people” who will follow the UK government’s Covid-19 protocols.
Under these guidelines, no more than six people can gather outside. However, by the evening, PTI activists outside Stanhope House were a few dozen in number.
Interestingly, they carried Pakistan flags instead of the PTI’s party flag and also held placards which called on Nawaz Sharif to “stop spitting venom on Pak army”.
Supporters of both parties flouted coronavirus protocols, as masks were placed on chins and distancing was not observed.
Officers of the Met Police arrived at the spot around 4pm and asked the crowd to maintain social distancing. As the workers ignored the police’s requests, officers formed a line in the middle of the street to separate the activists from rival parties. The crowd held up traffic on the narrow street and irked nearby residents with their loud sloganeering.
Sharif family sources said the security arrangements for Mr Sharif have been in place for weeks and are not connected to these PTI protests. One source said the family feels Mr Sharif’s security is of utmost importance, but did not offer any more comment on the significant increase in the PML-N supreme leader’s security detail.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2020