PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif barred from leaving abroad

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was not allowed to go abroad and was off-loaded from a Doha-bound flight at Lahore International Airport in the wee hours of Saturday.

On Friday, the Lahore High Court had allowed the PML-N president to travel abroad for medical treatment for once and also ordered the removal of his name from the blacklist.

Shehbaz Sharif was set to leave for Doha from the Lahore Airport on a Doha-bound flight but he was offloaded by the FIA officials from the plane as his name was not yet removed from the blacklist.

Shehbaz, who is a cancer patient, argued with the FIA officials that he had been allowed to travel abroad by the LHC. However, the FIA officials said that he could not leave the country until his clearance update on the immigration system. 

Shehbaz has planned to spend some days in quarantine in Doha before flying to London where he was to consult his doctors. 

As he showed up at the airport early Saturday morning, the airline issued him a boarding card. However, when he arrived at the immigration counter, he was told he cannot board the plane. Shehbaz asked the officials the reason and told them about the court orders.  Shehbaz informed them about the high court order for his one-time travel permit.

PML-N leader Ata Tarar also read out the judicial order to the officials. The immigration officials said the court orders are okay but their system needs to be updated for him to leave the country. “Your name is still on the blacklist. And, it has not been updated so far,” he was told. 

Shehbaz asked the officials to hand him the reason in writing. The officials gave him the off-load form that reads: ‘Offload by immigration.’ Several PML-N leaders, including Ata Tarar, Uzma Bukhari and Marriyum Aurangzeb went to the airport to see off Shehbaz.  The off-load form given to Shehbaz states that the immigration system has not been updated.

During Friday’s hearing, the LHC decided to allow Shehbaz to go abroad on medical grounds from May 8 to July 3.

The court also scheduled a hearing for July 5 to continue deliberation on the petition seeking the removal of his name from the blacklist. Shehbaz has arrived back at his Model Town home after staying nearly two hours at the airport. 

Talking to the media after Shehbaz was denied to travel abroad, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb condemned the move, saying Shehbaz was held back at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan and SAPM Shahzad Akbar.

The PML-N leader said restraining him from travelling abroad is in contempt of court, adding that the claim regarding the system not being updated is false.

The Federal Investigation Agency is committing contempt of court on Imran Khan’s order, she noted, adding that the FIA said Shehbaz’s name exists on yet another list.

“The government has come down to outright mean tactics, but this does not make any difference to Shehbaz Sharif,” she said. However, the PML-N will go to the courts soon as the consultation process with the legal experts is underway. 

She said her party has all legal options to review. “You committed a gross contempt of court by disallowing Shehbaz Sharif from leaving the country despite him carrying all legal documents.”

She said that Shehbaz’s name had been removed from the ECL 1 ½ years ago and we have court orders with us confirming that. Shehbaz will fly abroad in a day or two, if not today, she said, adding the government is victimising the PML-N with other opposition parties to hide its shortcomings.

The NAB is being used as a tool for this purpose, she maintained.

The government does not want to arrest the thieves of atta, gas, electricity, sugar, and LNG as it has aimed to exclusively target Shehbaz Sharif, she added. Tarar also spoke to the media and lashed out at the government, saying, “The selected rulers have small joys.”

He said everybody was a witness to how Zulfi Bukhari’s name was struck off from the blacklist in just 1 ½ hours when the prime minister wanted to travel with him, while the ECL did not have Shehbaz Sharif’s name removed. 

The Supreme Court spurned NAB’s plea to put Shehbaz’s name on the ECL, he highlighted.