Shehbaz Sharif
Pakistan’s ailing opposition leader, who has been charged with corruption, was turned back on Saturday at the international airport in Lahore and prevented from leaving the country. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and former Chief Minister of the Punjab Shahbaz Sharif was offloaded from a Doha-bound flight Saturday morning moments before take-off.

A day earlier, Sharif who is also president of his brother and ex-premiere Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was granted ‘one time’ permission by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to travel to London for treatment till July 3.

Shahbaz, who is a cancer patient and facing corruption and money laundering cases, was scheduled to leave for Doha from the Lahore airport.

After spending a few days in quarantine in Doha, he was to fly to London where he was to consult his doctors and meet his elder brother Nawaz Sharif who is also living there for medical treatment.

However, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) officials present at the Lahore Airport told Sharif upon arrival his name was not cleared by the Interior Ministry.

Black list

“Our system is not updated, sir, and his name is still in the black list. I am sorry,” the FIA official told one of Sharif’s aides when he insisted and showed the court’s orders.

Interestingly, this all happened after the airline issued a boarding pass but what seemed a smooth sailing turned out to be an impossible journey at the last moment.

Vice President of the PML-N and daughter of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz in a statement condemned the FIA and the Immigration department’s refusal to allow Shahbaz Sharif board a flight despite the LHC orders.

“Stopping Shahbaz Sharif at the airport is highly condemnable and ‘brazen’ violation of the court orders,” she said.

It also shows how scared the government is of him, she said in a tweet.

In a reaction to the relief granted by the LHC for Sharif, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a tweet clarified it was the prerogative of the Director General (DG) of the FIA to keep or strike off a name from the Black List.

“Shahbaz Sharif’s lawyers have not so far submitted any application to the FIA for removal of his name from the list. The record cannot be changed on verbal statements, further said Fawad Chaudhry. Over the permission granted to Sharif, he said the government would challenge the order.

We are resolved to seek all legal avenues against the decision, he said earlier in a TV talk show.