Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Monday said that the name of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had been placed on the exit control list (ECL) after approval from the federal cabinet.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also stated that the PML-N president's name had been added to the no-fly list after approval from the cabinet and completion of legal formalities. "The relevant record has been updated in this regard," he said on Twitter.
The opposition leader's name is already on the provisional national identification list (PNIL) meant to impose a temporary bar on someone to leave the country, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that stopped him at airport from travelling abroad on May 8.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the interior minister said that Shehbaz had not submitted any medical documents for travelling abroad or specify the treatment for his illness.
"He was the guarantor for his brother Nawaz. But instead of bringing him back, he was trying to flee without having any sehri. This is the only country in the world where, in the span of a day, a case was accepted for hearing, a decision was announced [...] and a ticket was booked."
All the accused in the case are on the ECL except Shehbaz, he said, adding that under the Constitution all suspects are to be treated the same. He added that the PML-N president also did not submit a request to the court for appointing a representative.
He said that the interior ministry had issued a notification after receiving approval from the cabinet, adding that Shehbaz had 15 days to file a review application with the ministry.
Responding to a question from a reporter, he said: "If Nawaz Sharif did not return then why would Shehbaz? This is a matter of common sense."
Cabinet given proposal to put Shehbaz’s name on ECL
Earlier this month, the Lahore High Court granted Shehbaz permission to travel abroad once for medical treatment.
After obtaining bail, Shehbaz was about to fly to London on May 8 when an FIA team at the airport stopped him from travelling on the grounds that his name had been on the list of persons barred from leaving the country.
On May 12, the interior minister announced that a sub-committee of the federal cabinet had recommended that the name of Shehbaz be placed on the ECL, adding that the recommendation was being sent to the cabinet for a final decision.
The recommendation unanimously made by the sub-committee that considered a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) request to this effect was being sent to the cabinet for a final decision, the minister had said while addressing a joint press conference with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Barrister Mirza Shahzad Akbar.
He had said that PML-N leaders were trying to escape the country only due to the reopening of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. “They chose the time of sehri to run away knowing that the [Hudaibiya Paper Mills] case was about to be reopened.”
Speaking at the presser, PM’s aide Shahzad Akbar had said that if Shehbaz had been allowed to go abroad, the proceedings of multiple cases against him would come to a halt.
Barrister Akbar was of the opinion that the HPM case was closed on technical grounds, but factually it did not come to its logical conclusion. He had said any case could be reopened if new evidence surfaced, explaining that the case had never gone to trial, because the Sharifs ‘made a deal’ and fled to Saudi Arabia in 2000.
He had said the LHC decision noted that neither the NAB nor the federal government wanted to pursue the case so it was ‘closed on technical grounds’. “The institution that should have appealed did not do so in time and when it did after years, of course, the Supreme Court said the time had passed. This is why the case was closed. Factually, it has not ended,” he had reiterated.
The PM’s aide had disclosed that other cases related to the Sharifs would also be reopened. “The case was closed but the crime exists. Because that is being opened, their attempts to flee are increasing and the government will take action on that as well,” he had argued.
Barrister Akbar had said the subcommittee had made the recommendation to place Shehbaz’s name on the ECL because his trial before an accountability court in Lahore was under way, while cases such as Ramzan Sugar Mills case, Chaudhry Sugar Mills case and other investigations by the FIA had also been under way.
“If Shehbaz was allowed to leave, all these cases would face delays and would be an infringement on the rights of the co-accused in the cases,” he had said.