Arrest of Pakistan Politician on Drug Charges Sparks Opposition Fury

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Pakistan’s main opposition party on Tuesday criticized as political the arrest on drugs charges of one of its senior provincial leaders who has been critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Rana Sanaullah, a parliamentarian and Punjab provincial president of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), was arrested by anti-drugs police on Monday on the motorway linking the capital Islamabad with the eastern city of Lahore. He was remanded in custody for 14 days.

Information Minister Firdous Aashiq Awan said 15 kilograms of heroin was seized from his vehicle. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Shehbaz Sharif, the president of the PML-N, denounced the arrest of his longtime ally as a “fake case.”

“It is just unfair, brutal and the worst oppression,” said Sharif, saying the arrest had demonstrated the government’s frustration at failing to deliver on its promises since coming to office last year.

The episode followed a string of arrests of other opposition figures, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a number of his relatives, on corruption charges.

Sanaullah, a fiery politician given to hurling insults at Khan during parliamentary debates, had been saying for months that the government was out to get him.

His lawyer, Azim Nazir Tarar, told Reuters the accusations were “ridiculous.”

Tarar said that Sanaullah had told the court at his arrest hearing that police had intercepted his vehicle and driven him to their office in Lahore city without elaborating any further.

Officials told him later that heroin had been seized from his car, he said.

The anti-narcotics police said Sanaullah himself pointed to a briefcase on the rear seat of the car when intercepted, and helped officers unzip a polythene bag containing the drugs.

Another main opposition group, the Pakistan People’s Party, also condemned the arrest, calling it victimization.

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