LAHORE: Drama unfolded on Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport when PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was stopped from leaving the country despite having court orders to go abroad for medical treatment.
The immigration officials, citing the system update problem, off-loaded him from the Doha-bound flight early Saturday morning.
The PML-N leader was granted "one-time" permission by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to fly abroad on health grounds inviting criticism from the federal ministers.
Shehbaz, who is a cancer patient, was scheduled to leave for Doha from the Lahore airport today onboard a foreign airline. After spending some days in quarantine in Doha, he had planned to fly to London where he was to consult his doctors.
As he showed up to the airport early this morning, the airline issued him a boarding card. However, when he arrived at the immigration counter, he was told he cannot board the plane. Shehbaz asked the officials the reason and told them about the court orders that allow him to travel abroad.
Shehbaz informed them about the high court order for his one-time travel permit. PML-N leader Ata Tarar also read out the judicial order to the officials.
The immigration officials said the court orders are okay but their system needs to be updated for him to leave the country. "Your name is still on the blacklist. And, it [the blacklist available with them] has not been updated so far," the PML-N leader was told.
Sharif asked the officials to hand him the reason in writing. The officials gave him the off-load form that reads: 'Offload by immigration.' Several PML-N leaders, including Ata Tarar, Uzma Bukhari and Marriyum Aurangzeb went to the airport to see off Shehbaz.
"I am on my way to London for medical treatment. I will soon come back to the homeland," Shehbaz had told his party workers when he arrived at the airport.
The off-load form given to Shehbaz states that the immigration system has not been updated.
During yesterday's hearing, the LHC decided to allow Shehbaz to go abroad on medical grounds from May 8 to July 3. The court also scheduled a hearing for July 5 to continue deliberation on the petition seeking the removal of his name from the blacklist.
Shehbaz has arrived back home after staying 1.5 hours at the airport.
'Shehbaz Sharif stopped at Imran Khan and Shahzad Akbar's behest'
Talking to the media after Shehbaz was denied to fly, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb condemned the move, saying Shehbaz was held back at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan and SAPM Shahzad Akbar.
The PML-N leader said restraining him from travelling abroad is in contempt of court, adding that the claim regarding the system not being updated is false.
The Federal Investigation Agency is committing contempt of court on Imran Khan's order, she noted, adding that the FIA said Shehbaz's name exists on yet another list.
"The government has come down to outright mean manoeuvres, but this does not make any difference to Shehbaz Sharif," she said. However, the PML-N will take recourse to the courts soon as the consultation process with the legal experts is underway.
Aurangzeb said her party has all legal options to visit.
"You committed a gross contempt of court by disallowing Shehbaz Sharif from leaving the country despite him carrying all legal documents."
Shehbaz will fly abroad in a day or two, if not today, said Aurangzeb, adding that the government is victimising the PML-N with other opposition parties to hide its shortcomings. The NAB is being used as a tool for this purpose, she pointed out.
The government does not want to arrest the thieves of atta, gas, electricity, sugar, and LNG as it has aimed to exclusively target Shehbaz Sharif, Aurangzeb added.
Tarar also spoke to the media and lashed out at the government, saying, "The selected rulers have small joys."
He said everybody was a witness to how Zulfi Bukhari's name was struck off from the blacklist, while the ECL did not have Shehbaz Sharif's name removed.
The Supreme Court spurned NAB's plea to put Shehbaz's name on the ECL, he highlighted.
'Govt to seek all legal avenues against LHC order'
After the LHC decision to permit Shehbaz to travel abroad, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had voiced the government's resolve to "seek all legal avenues against the decision".
In a tweet, he termed it the mockery of the law to let Shehbaz go as he is involved in money-laundering of billions of rupee of the nation's money.
"Shahbaz Sharif has been involved in money laundering worth billions," he said, adding: "For him to run away like this would be great misfortune [for the country]."
Chaudhry said that Shehbaz had provided a guarantee in the past for the return of his elder brother, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, "but what became of that?"
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