Shehbaz Sharif
Leader of the opposition PML-N party Shehbaz Sharif. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Islamabad: Pakistan’s opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif has been banned from travelling abroad. Shehbaz Sharif’s name had been placed on the exit control list (ECL) after approval from the federal cabinet, Pakistan’s interior ministry said on Monday.

“He [Shehbaz] was the guarantor for his brother Nawaz. But instead of bringing him back, he was trying to flee,” interior minister Sheikh Rasheed said in a press conference in Islamabad. He also said that Shehbaz had not submitted any medical documents for travelling abroad or shared details of the treatment for his ailment.

On May 8, Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif, was not allowed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to leave the country for the United Kingdom via Doha. When he reached the Lahore airport, the immigration officials informed him that he could not board the flight as his name was on the ‘person not in list (PNIL)’.

“If Nawaz Sharif did not return then why would Shehbaz?” the interior minister remarked, adding that Shehbaz had 15 days to file a review application with the ministry. Sheikh Rasheed said the decision was taken in light of a money laundering case involving Rs700 billion against Shehbaz Sharif. Other Sharif family members who are now in London were also facing similar corruption charges in Pakistan courts, he said.

Shehbaz files contempt petition

Meanwhile, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Monday submitted a contempt petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) against six officials for barring him from flying abroad in violation of the court’s order granting him permission to fly.

The petition said that the reason given for not permitting opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) president to go abroad for medical treatment was “lame and false” and the respondents “committed gross contempt of the honourable court”. The petition filed has named the secretary of the Interior Ministry, director general of the FIA, director FIA Punjab, and the deputy director, inspector and sub-inspector immigration at Lahore airport.

The interim order issued on May 7 by LHC granted Shehbaz conditional permission to go abroad for medical treatment “keeping in view the past conduct and travel history,” and his name not being is not in Exit Control List (ECL) then. The order also said that even if Sharif’s name was added in the blacklist it “will not stop the petitioner from one-time visit to UK from May 8, 2021, to July 3, 2021 for his medical checkup as per his personal commitment made before this court.”