PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was reportedly not allowed to fly from the Lahore airport to the United Kingdom via Qatar on Saturday morning after the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) allegedly placed his name on "another list", preventing him from leaving the country.
Earlier on Friday, the Lahore High Court (LHC) granted Shehbaz conditional permission to travel abroad once for medical treatment.
Speaking to the media early Saturday morning, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that two FIA officials were present in court when the LHC issued an order allowing Shehbaz to travel abroad. The court order also mentioned the flight number the PML-N president would take to fly to Qatar, Aurangzeb said.
"When Shehbaz Sharif came to the airport today, FIA officials stopped him and said he could not travel because there was another list, a 'person-not-in-list'," she said, adding that according to the FIA, the system had not been updated yet after the court order.
Terming it "malafide" intention, Aurangzeb said that the present government's priorities were focused on "Shehbaz Sharif" and political opponents instead of providing electricity, water, sugar and wheat to citizens.
She claimed that Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar had been issuing statements saying they "did not accept" the order and they would make "complete efforts to stop Shehbaz".
"The proforma that was given [after not letting Shehbaz fly] states ‘of by immigration not updated in IBMS system PNIL notepad’. The two FIA officials present for the court order [...] they did not update the system. [Prime Minister Imran Khan's] instructions came and Akbar carried them out," Aurangzeb alleged.
Dawn.com has reached out to the FIA for a statement on the episode and awaits a response.
The PML-N spokesperson termed the FIA's notice as "lies" and a violation of the LHC's order.
"This is tantamount to contempt of court and we are holding legal discussions on this," she added.
She questioned what the government could gain from stopping Shehbaz from travelling abroad, stressing that the government would have to answer. "They know the public has rejected them whether it is in Daska, Wazirabad or Karachi. This is why they have resorted to such petty actions.
"They are afraid that the PML-N is united, the people of Pakistan are voting for PML-N and Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif's service."
She alleged that Shehbaz was stopped on the "orders" of the prime minister and Akbar.
Speaking alongside Aurangzeb, PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar claimed that there were "two Pakistans" — one where the prime minister could "get his special assistant Zulfiqar Bukhari's name removed from the ECL in 1.5 hours" and the other one in which the system was not updated despite a court order.
"Shehbaz Sharif's name was not on the ECL after which NAB went to the Supreme Court to get [the PML-N president's] name put on the ECL but was rejected. Following this, the NAB-Niazi nexus tried to put Shehbaz's name on the blacklist. There is a list called the 'person-not-in-list' which is illegal and a dirty tactic through which a person can be temporarily stopped from flying abroad".
He too termed the addition of Shehbaz's name to the PNIL as a violation of the LHC order. When the high court is giving permission to travel abroad, then the Ministry of Interior and FIA have "no legal basis" to stop Shehbaz Sharif this way, Tarar said.
"It is the government's job to implement court orders. A deputy attorney general was present in court. How long can you stop [Shehbaz]? We have the orders and we will get them implemented," he emphasised.
When asked whether the PML-N president took clearance from immigration before trying to fly abroad, Tarar replied that the party would "use all legal options as soon as possible". He said the party had a letter from the interior ministry that stated Shehbaz's name had been removed from the ECL.
Looking at Shehbaz's behaviour in the past when he had gone abroad for treatment but then came back to Pakistan, the government has "no ethical or legal basis" for stopping the PML-N president, Tarar added.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Chaudhry said that the FIA director general held the authority to add or remove a person's name from the blacklist. "Shehbaz's lawyers have not submitted any request to the DG FIA to remove [Shehbaz's name] from the blacklist as per the court's decision. The record cannot be changed on the basis of verbal talks."
"The government will move the court against this decision," he tweeted.
Shehbaz had approached the LHC on Thursday to challenge the placement of his name on a travel blacklist/no-fly list and seek one-time permission to go abroad for medical treatment.
Issuing the order on Friday, the high court said: "Dispensation sought for is allowed subject to all just and legal exceptions.
"Keeping in view the past conduct and travel history, the fact that name of the petitioner is not in 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," said the interim order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.