- Nawaz Sharif, daughter met Begum Kulsoom Nawaz at London hospital
- Sharif's wife's health has been described as "highly critical" by doctors
- Sharif and daughter are likely to be arrested on their arrival in Lahore
A picture of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam bidding farewell to Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, Mr Sharif's ailing wife, before their return to Pakistan for their imminent arrest, has struck an emotional chord with many in the country.
The photograph, which was tweeted by a Pakistani journalist, and retweeted by Nawaz Sharif's daughter, shows Maryam breaking down as her father Nawaz Sharif keeps his hand on Begum Kulsoom's forehead, hours before they head to the airport to return to Pakistan, where they would be arrested upon arrival.
Kulsoom Nawaz, whose health has been described as "highly critical" by doctors, has been undergoing treatment at the Harley Street Clinic in London. She has been on life support - on a ventilator - for over a month, and had even slipped into coma.
"This picture will haunt many in the future," tweeted the Pakistani journalist who first posted the photo on social media.
Many in Pakistan are reacting and sharing the emotional photograph on social media. Some have even called it the "ugliest face of Pakistani establishment" as the administration in the country said it would arrest Mr Sharif and his daughter Maryam mid-air, as soon as their plane enters Pakistani territory.
"This picture will be marked as the ugliest face of Pakistani Establishment for a hundred years," a user said.
Hours before his imminent arrest, Mr Sharif said, "Maryam and I are coming back to face prison, and even if they send me to the gallows, we know that freedom cannot be won without sacrifice. It is not easy to leave my wife on a ventilator in a hospital, but I am returning along with my daughter to play our role to rid of this slavery."
"Despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes, I am going to Pakistan," he told a conference of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz or PML-N party in London.
According to news agency AFP, Nawaz Sharif, who has a mass appeal in his country, told cheering supporters: "Put Nawaz Sharif in prison for life, send him to the gallows, but you will have to answer the questions that the people of Pakistan are asking and they will stop only after getting answers." Attendees chanted "Nawaz Sharif, We Love You!" as he concluded his speech.
Mr Sharif was sentenced by a court in Islamabad last week over the purchase of high-end properties in London. He was ousted from his third term as prime minister by the Supreme Court of Pakistan last year following a corruption investigation and banned from politics for life but remains a powerful symbol for his ruling party.
On July 6, Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of eight million pounds in the Avenfield Reference case, while his daughter Maryam Sharif was sentenced to seven years of jail and fined two million pounds, by the accountability court.
Mr Sharif and Maryam are expected to land at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport at 6:15 pm (local time) via Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways flight EY243.
In a video message, tweeted by Maryam, Mr Sharif urged his followers to stand with him and "change the fate of the country".
"The country is at a critical juncture right now," 68-year-old Mr Sharif said, adding, "I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years [in prison] and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away. But I want the Pakistani nation to know that I am doing this for you."
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(With inputs from AFP, PTI and ANI)