ISLAMABAD: Key aides of former prime minister Imran Khan, including Dr Shahbaz Gill and Mirza Shahzad Akbar, got temporary relief on Tuesday after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended a Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) order placing their names on a no-fly list.

After a preliminary hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued notices to the interior secretary and the FIA and sought their reply on petitions filed by Dr Gill and Mr Akbar.

Both petitioners invoked the IHC’s jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution and assailed the placing of their names on the Provisional National Identification List (PNIL).

Earlier this week, the FIA put six key members of the former PTI government on the list, including Mr Khan’s adviser on interior and accountability Mr Akbar, special assistant on political communication Dr Gill, focal person on digital media Dr Arsalan Khalid, principal secretary Azam Khan, Punjab’s anti-corruption director general Gohar Nafees, and FIA Punjab zone’s director general Mohammad Rizwan.

Notices issued to FIA, interior secretary

Dr Gill and Mr Akbar’s counsel argued during the hearing that petitioners’ names were placed on the list at around 2am on April 10 — immediately after the National Assembly passed a vote of no confidence against former prime minister Imran Khan.

Mr Akbar said placing him on the no-fly list was a consequence of mala fides and requested the court to summon the FIA director general in this regard.

It was argued that the PNIL had no statutory backing and, according to the applicable notification, names of those people were placed on it who committed heinous offences. It was pointed out that no case had ever been registered against the petitioners.

Justice Minallah directed the registrar’s office to issue notices to the interior secretary and FIA’s director general. The court also issued directions to inform these respondents by phone to nominate officials well versed with the facts to assist the IHC in this matter.

“Their nominated officials shall appear at 10:30am on Wednesday [today] and explain who authorised placing names of the petitioners and other three officials closely associated with the former prime minister on the list,” the court order said, adding that they were expected to satisfy the court that the action was not based on victimisation.

Justice Minallah granted interim relief in the matter and declared that the operation of the no-fly list to the extent of the petitioners and other three officials should remain suspended.

The next hearing is set for Wednesday (today).

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2022

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