The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday granted permission to PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif to travel abroad once for medical treatment.
The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly had filed a petition with the court, seeking directions to the quarters concerned for the removal of his name from the travel blacklist.
"Keeping in view the past conduct and travel history, the fact that name of the petitioner is not in the Exit Control List (ECL) at the moment, the name of the petitioner in blacklist, if already placed, 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," read an interim order issued by the LHC.
During the proceedings, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi also issued directions to the government and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as well as the Immigrations and Passport (HQ) director general to submit a report to the court on or before the next hearing.
Earlier, the LHC registrar office objected to the plea of the PML-N leader, saying he had not approached the relevant forum first.
In his remarks, Justice Najafi said: "The accused is out on bail and [still] appearing before the court. He has served thrice as the chief minister [of Punjab] and is the current opposition leader [in the National Assembly].”
The judge asked the government's counsel as to what other guarantees they required. The lawyer sought more time, saying the government would need to consult with other institutions in this regard.
Subsequently, following the completion of arguments from both sides, the court reserved its decision in the case and announced it later in the day.
In his plea, Shehbaz had contended that after the general elections 2018, the incumbent government started a campaign to malign the character of the petitioner and political victimisation in collusion and connivance with various executive authorities.
He named the federation, the FIA and the immigrations and passport (HQ) DG as respondents in the case.
Shehbaz is expected to leave for Doha at 4am on Saturday on a foreign airline’s flight number QR 621.
Family sources said the opposition leader would stay in quarantine for 10 to 14 days in Doha before leaving for London, where a physician was due to examine him on May 22.
He is likely to the return to the country on July 3 on his doctors' advice.
‘Travesty of justice’
Soon after the court decision was announced, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry took to Twitter, saying that allowing Shehbaz “who is involved in billions of rupees money laundering to fly abroad is a travesty of justice”.
اربوں روپے کی منی لانڈرنگ میں ملوث شہباز شریف کو باہر جانے کی اجازت دینا قانون کے ساتھ مذاق،اتنا جلد فیصلہ تو پنچائیت میں نہیں ہوتا اس طرح سے ان کا فرار ہونا بدقسمتی ہو گی، اس سے پہلے وہ نواز شریف کی واپسی کی گارنٹی دے چکے ہیں سوال یہ ہے کہ کہ اس گارنٹی کا کیا بنا؟— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) May 7, 2021
The minister said Shehbaz’s “escape” from the country would be very unfortunate.
In another tweet, Fawad posted the undertaking submitted by Shehbaz in the LHC in 2019 assuring the court of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s return from London.
“Shehbaz Sharif had submitted this guarantee in the court to get Nawaz Sharif out. Now instead of giving a notice to him for submitting a fake guarantee and calling back Nawaz, Shehbaz is being allowed to leave the country.”
The minister went on to say that the government would take all legal steps against the court’s decision and added that opposition parties were not ready for legal reforms to remove the loopholes “because they are beneficiaries of this rotten system”.
شہباز شریف نے نواز شریف کے باہر جانے کیلئے یہ گارنٹی عدالت میں جمع کروائ تھی، اب بجائے اس کے کہ کہ شہباز شریف کو جعلی گارنٹی دینے پر نوٹس کیا جاتا نواز شریف کو واپس بلایا جاتا خود شہباز شریف کو باہر بھیجا جا رہا ہے۔۔۔ pic.twitter.com/3pdU9RVeLM— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) May 7, 2021
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill wrote on Twitter that it was a “surprising” decision to permit Shehbaz to travel abroad. He added that Shehbaz had submitted a false guarantee to the court to assist his elder brother Sharif in fleeing from the country.
He added that Sharif had not returned to the country and was declared an absconder. Gill questioned as to why Shehbaz was not jailed for assisting a convict to flee from the country. He added that Shehbaz was now preparing to flee from the country too.
The SAPM also shared a copy of Shehbaz’s legal document which he had submitted to the court to ensure the return of Sharif within four weeks after receiving medical treatment.
شہباز شریف کی بیرون ملک روانگی کی اجازت حیران کن فیصلہ ہے۔پہلے بھائی کی جھوٹی ضمانت دی اسے باہر بھاگنے میں مدد دی جو کبھی واپس نہیں آئے-اب وہ مفرور قرار ہیں۔کیا انہیں ایک مفرور کی معاونت میں اندر نہیں ہونا چاہیے تھا۔ 35 سال کی حکومت میں ایک ہسپتال ایسا نہیں جہاں ان کا علاج ہو سکے— Dr. Shahbaz GiLL (@SHABAZGIL) May 7, 2021
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb while responding to Fawad’s tirade said Shehbaz's name was never placed on the no-fly list. She added that his name was “illegally” put on the travel blacklist on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s behest for “political victimisation”.
She said the government could not add Shehbaz’s name to the blacklist.
“Only the names of anti-state elements or terrorists are placed on the list.”