Authorities in Pakistan on Friday arrested leader of the opposition, Shahbaz Sharif, on corruption charges as the new government intensifies and broadens its anti-graft crackdown.
The anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB) swiftly confirmed the arrest, saying it was linked to an ongoing probe into a low-cost housing project initiated in Punjab province while the detainee was its chief minister.
The detained politician, head of country's main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, is the younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who himself is under trial for corruption.
Back-to-back PML-N election victories in Punjab, the country's most populous and rich province, enabled Shahbaz Sharif to rule the province for a decade. The party lost the July 25 election to its main rival, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
PML-N leaders in their immediate reaction to Friday's abrupt arrest of their chief declared the move as unlawful."
"We condemn it. The PML-N is working on a legal, as well as a political, strategy following the arrest of its president and it will be shared with the media very soon," PML-N spokeswomen Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters.
Khan's ruling party distanced itself from the arrest, saying the NAB launched its investigation months before PTI came to power in August. Several senior bureaucrats have already been under arrest and investigation in connection with the case.
In July, an anti-corruption tribunal sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in jail over expensive properties his family owned in Britain, following revelations in the Panama Papers. Sharif was released from prison on bail last month after a court temporarily suspended his sentence pending an appeal.
Nawaz Sharif was ousted from office last year by the Supreme Court following a graft investigation. The thrice-elected prime minister maintains he is being targeted at the behest of the country's powerful military, charges the army denies.
Since coming into power more than a month ago, Khan has vowed to root out corruption from Pakistan, blaming it for the crisis-ridden national economy.
On Friday, the government announced its newly constituted Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) has launched an investigation into more than 10,000 properties held by Pakistani citizens in the United Kingdom and Dubai.
Shahzad Akbar, special assistance to the prime minister on accountability, told reporters that ARU investigators have received details of these properties and they are in the process of determining whether tax evasion or money laundering was used to build the foreign assets.
In the first stage, he said, notices have been issued to suspected owners of 300 properties from the list.
Source: Voice of America