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Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK


World: South Asia

Sharif's wife leaves family estate

Mr Sharif's house is said to be lavishly furnished

The wife of Pakistan's deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been allowed out for the first time since the army overthrew the government two weeks ago.

Pakistan in crisis
Mrs Kulsoom Sharif was allowed to visit her parent's house in Lahore for a religious ceremony. She is the first member of the family to be seen in public since the coup.

Ever since the army takeover, the entire Sharif family has been detained at their private estate in Raiwind, near Lahore.

Mr Sharif has been kept at an undisclosed location, said to be near the capital, Islamabad.

Mrs Sharif was escorted to Lahore by police from the family estate. A heavy police presence was also seen outside her parent's home, where a Muslim religious ceremony was in progress.

The road leading to the main street of the block had been cordoned off, and a side street was being used for traffic.

family under custody

Since the army takeover on 12 October, members of the Sharif family in the home province of Punjab have been kept under custody in their family estate, Raiwind.


[ image: A house is being constructed for Shahbaz Sharif]
A house is being constructed for Shahbaz Sharif
For years Pakistani newspapers alleged that public money was spent on the place and, until now, the buildings had been off-limits, shrouded in mystery and the subject of endless rumours.

But the BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones visited Raiwind, which was filmed for the first time since the coup.

Behind the calm and tranquillity of the sprawling estate, close relatives of the Sharif family are being held under protective custody in one of its many buildings.

They have not been let out, or allowed to speak to the media.

Lavish

The BBC crew was not able to go inside Nawaz Sharif's house. Those who have been inside say the hi-tech gadgetry and furnishings are among the most lavish they have seen in the country.


[ image: Animals graze in the family zoo]
Animals graze in the family zoo
Nearby was a house being constructed for his brother, Shahbaz, who was the chief minister of Punjab province.

In the town of Raiwind, outside the Sharif estate, there was considerable support for the former prime minister in what is his political stronghold.

"All the people like Nawaz Sharif," one person told the BBC.

Another said Mr Sharif always looked after the poor while another said nobody could be a better prime minister, and the army's action was unconstitutional.

On the estate, the family's workers have carried on as if nothing had happened. Animals have continued to graze in the family zoo.

But as a Commonwealth delegation arrived in Pakistan to meet the country's new military leadership, there was no word on when the Sharif family would be released.



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