LAHORE: Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday approached the Lahore High Court challenging placement of his name on a travel blacklist/no-fly list and seeking one-time permission to go abroad for medical treatment.

In a petition, filed through advocates Azam Nazir Tarar and Amjad Pervez, the opposition leader, who is on bail in multiple references of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), contends that the government had previously placed him on the ECL. However, the LHC had suspended the government’s act, giving him one-time permission to travel to the United Kingdom for medical check-up in 2019.

Shehbaz states that he recently came to know that his name had been placed on the blacklist at the behest of the present regime. He says the authorities concerned refused to furnish the documents to him on the basis of which his name had been placed in the list.

The petition argues that the right to travel abroad is encapsulated in freedom of movement enshrined in Article 15 of the Constitution, which is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the law in the public interest. It says the impugned act of the respondents, after the removal of the petitioner’s name from the ECL by the court, shows malicious intentions.

Moves LHC against name on travel blacklist

It pleads that there is no provision in the Passports Act 1974 regarding the notion of a 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.

The petition contends that those sitting at the helms of affairs are aware of the severity of the health of the petitioner and they have maliciously placed his name on the blacklist. It asks the court to declare the impugned act of the respondents illegal and without lawful authority and permit the petitioner to go abroad for his medical treatment.

The blacklist is different from ECL as in the latter a cabinet committee decides the matter and after its proper hearing, one is placed on the list while in the former no such procedure is needed and interior ministry informs the Federal Investigation Agency about the blacklisted person. The legality of travel blacklist has been questioned several times in the past by the experts and many others, including the PTI ministers, have raised concerns over it.

Justice Ali Baqar Najafi would hear the petition on Friday (today).

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021

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