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Deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Continues March Toward Lahore


Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif crowd around his car as his convoy enters Rawalpindi on August 9.
Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif crowd around his car as his convoy enters Rawalpindi on August 9.

Deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continued his journey from Islamabad toward his hometown of Lahore on August 10, a trip that appears aimed at displaying his political influence after a Supreme Court decision forced him out late last month.

Sharif launched the "caravan" despite concerns voiced by close advisers about security for himself and the crowds he is expected to attract.

Sharif resigned on July 28, shortly after the Supreme Court disqualified him from office following an investigation that concluded that his family could not account for what the court said was vast wealth in offshore companies.

The claim stems from the Panama Papers leaks in April 2016, when documents from a Panama-based law firm revealed that three of Sharif’s four children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family's wealth statement.

Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party elected his close aide Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as his replacement on August 1.

Sharif spoke briefly to his supporters at Sohawa while en route to the city of Jhelum, a city some 120 kilometers from Islamabad where he is expected to address a large rally.

"There are no allegations of corruption against me," Sharif told the crowds from inside his bulletproof car. "The honorable judges sent me home. Do you agree with their decision?" he asked.

The march is taking place amid tight security, with large numbers of police officers and paramilitary soldiers deployed both in Islamabad and along the Grand Trunk Road, the main highway connecting the capital with Lahore.

Late on August 9, addressing a rally in Rawalpindi, Sharif said the court's decision to disqualify him from office last month over undeclared wealth was an "insult to voters."

Sharif's "caravan" took 12 hours to travel the 20 kilometers from Islamabad to Rawalpindi due to big crowds estimated as large as 30,000 that were walking and driving alongside his car.

However, Sharif's decision to address crowds from within a bulletproof car drew criticism from Imran Khan, the leader of the Tehreek-i-Insaf opposition party.

"Speaking from a bulletproof car doesn't inspire confidence in already dwindling crowds. If you fear death, you shouldn't undertake 'people's' rallies," Khan tweeted on August 10.

With additional reporting by