Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking direction to the concerned quarters for the removal of his name from the blacklist so that he could fly abroad for medical treatment.
Petitioner Shehbaz, through his counsel, made respondents federation of Pakistan, through the Ministry of Interior Affairs’ secretary, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), through its director general Islamabad and director general Immigrations and Passport (HQ), through interior ministry director general.
He contended that after the general election 2018, the incumbent government started a campaign to malign the character of the petitioner and started political victimisation in collusion and connivance with various executive authorities.
It was in this context that multiple inquiries/investigations were maliciously initiated and call-up notices were issued by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to the petitioner and his family members.
He implored the court that the right to travel abroad is encapsulated in the freedom of movement enshrined in Article 15 of the Constitution, which nonetheless is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the law in public interest.
“These restrictions are exclusively expounded in The Exit From Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981 in pursuance whereof earlier the petitioner's name was placed on the Exit Control List vide memorandum on February 21, 2019, said memorandum was successfully assailed by him before the court.
“The instant clandestine action of placing the name of petitioner in the blacklist by the respondents after removal of his name from the ECL by this court vide order dated March 26, 2019 is not only illegal, perverse but also contemptuous as the same is a blatant attempt of sitting over the judgment of this court.”
The petition stated that knowing the fact that after the removal of the name of the petitioner from the ECL by this court, his right to travel abroad could not have been halted by invoking the provisions of 1981 Ordinance, but the respondents maliciously placed his name in the blacklist.
“It is trite that what could not be done directly could not be done indirectly, however, the respondent does not leave any stone unturned to infringe the fundamental rights of petitioner and even went up to violating the orders passed by this court.”
That it is pertinent to mention that there is no provision in Passports Act 1974 regarding the notion of blacklist. However, the federal government formulated the Passport and Visa Manual 2006 which explicates the procedure and circumstances in which the name of a person can be blacklisted for passport facilities.
As per clause 51 (B) (i) of the Manual, names of only those persons can be placed on the blacklist who are believed to be involved in anti-state activities or whose visit to foreign countries is considered to be prejudicial to the state interest or whose visit abroad is banned from security point of view.
“There is no allegation worth naming against the petitioner that he ever engaged in subversive or anti-state activities,” according to the petition.