LHC orders removal of Shahbaz's name from ECL

Updated 26 Mar 2019

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Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.— AFP/File
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.— AFP/File

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday ordered the government to remove Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif's name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

A two-member bench, led by Justice Malik Shahzad, announced the verdict.

During today's hearing, the court asked National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) counsel if any inquiry against Shahbaz pertaining to ownership of assets beyond known sources of income was ongoing. The counsel replied that an inquiry in this regard was launched on Oct 23, 2018. He added that suspicious transactions were detected from Shahbaz's bank account.

The counsel for Sharif argued in court that he appears before NAB whenever he is summoned, yet his name is still on the no-fly list.

Sharif's counsel cited the example of Ayyan Ali's case in which the court had ordered removal of her name from the ECL. He said that that the government put his client's name on the no-fly list after a court of law had accepted his plea for bail. He added that NAB authorities were making a mockery [of laws].

He argued that Sharif used to go abroad and return during the inquiry and investigation.

In October, last year, NAB had launched an investigation against Sharif to detect his "illegal" assets.

According to sources, NAB Lahore had formed a team in this regard which had written to the Federal Board of Revenue to seek his tax record for the last 10 years and to different banks for account details, Lahore Develop­ment Authority and Capital Develop­ment Authority (for property in his name) and the excise department.

“NAB has initiated this inquiry on reports that he [Shahbaz] possesses assets beyond his known sources of income. During interrogation, when Shahbaz was quizzed about his assets’ details, he said his son Salman looked after the family business affairs,” a source had said.

The inquiry was launched when Shahbaz Sharif was already in the custody of the bureau in connection with the alleged Rs14 billion Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing project scam. Sharif is also facing investigation in the Saaf Pani Company scandal for allegedly awarding contracts in violation of rules.

Last month, the federal cabinet had approved a summary for the placement of Shahbaz Sharif's name on the ECL.

The summary had been moved after NAB wrote a letter to the interior ministry seeking placement of the PML-N president's name on the ECL.

In the letter, seen by Dawn.com, the accountability watchdog had stated under 'allegations' regarding Sharif that: "The accused has accumulated assets beyond his known sources of income through corruption & corrupt practices."