PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif barred from leaving country; immigration officials tell him his name is still on the no-fly list
LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif was off-loaded from a flight leaving for Doha, Qatar early Saturday morning.
The PML-N leader was granted"one time" permission to fly abroad on medical grounds by the Lahore High Court on Friday (May 7).
Shahbaz, who is a cancer survivor, was scheduled to leave for Doha from the Lahore airport today. After spending some days in quarantine in Doha, he had planned to fly to London where he was to consult his doctors.
As he showed up to the airport early this morning, the airline issued him a boarding card. However, when he arrived at the immigration counter, he was told he cannot board the plane. Shahbaz asked the officials the reason and told them about the court orders that allow him to travel abroad.
Shahbaz 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 [the blacklist available with them] has not been updated so far," the PML-N leader was told.
Sharif 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.
"I am on my way to London for medical treatment. I will soon come back to the homeland," Shahbaz had told his party workers when he arrived at the airport.
The off-load form given to Shahbaz states that the immigration system has not been updated.
During yesterday's hearing, the LHC decided to allow Shahbaz 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 home after staying 1.5 hours at the airport.
Talking to the media after Shahbaz was denied to fly, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb condemned the move, saying Shahbaz 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 Shahbaz's name exists on yet another list.
"The government has come down to outright mean manoeuvres, but this does not make any difference to Shahbaz Sharif," she said. However, the PML-N will take recourse to the courts soon as the consultation process with the legal experts is underway.
Aurangzeb said her party has all legal options to visit.
"You committed a gross contempt of court by disallowing Shahbaz Sharif from leaving the country despite him carrying all legal documents."
Shahbaz will fly abroad in a day or two, if not today, said Aurangzeb, adding that 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 pointed out.
The government does not want to arrest the thieves of atta, gas, electricity, sugar, and LNG as it has aimed to exclusively target Shahbaz Sharif, Aurangzeb 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, while the ECL did not have Shahbaz Sharif's name removed.
The Supreme Court spurned NAB's plea to put Shehbaz's name on the ECL, he highlighted.
After the LHC decision to permit Shahbaz to travel abroad, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had voiced the government's resolve to "seek all legal avenues against the decision".
In a tweet, he termed it the mockery of the law to let Shahbaz go as he is involved in money-laundering of billions of rupee of the nation's money.
"Shahbaz Sharif has been involved in money laundering worth billions," he said, adding: "For him to run away like this would be great misfortune [for the country]."
Chaudhry said that Shahbaz had provided a guarantee in the past for the return of his elder brother, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, "but what became of that?"