–Opp leader in Punjab Assembly says name added to no-fly list with mala fide intention
–Justice Irfan criticises NAB’s tactics, says CJP and other SC judges are ‘unhappy with the way NAB is conducting itself’
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday granted one-time permission to Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz to fly abroad for a period of 10 days.
A day earlier, Hamza had moved the LHC through Advocate Azam Nazeer Tarar against his name being placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) arbitrarily as no opportunity of hearing had been given to him before the impugned action.
LHC Justice Farrukh Irfan heard Hamza’s petition and asked the opposition leader’s counsel whether he is involved in “anti-state activities”.
“My client is a patriotic citizen and did not even leave the country during General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship,” the counsel responded.
Hamza told the court, “Last year in November when I was travelling to Britain, I was told at the airport that my name is on the blacklist.”
“I belong to a political family and the addition of my name to the ECL was made with mala fide intention,” he added. At this, the court asked Additional Attorney General Ashfaq A Khan “why is the name of an innocent citizen on the ECL.”
“Does being a public representative means that a person enjoys complete freedom,” retorted the additional attorney general. “These courts are based on the premise that the law is equal for all citizens alike,” the judge responded.
The additional attorney general said that “a high court judgement itself had set down the rules for the restriction of movement for any citizen”.
“If someone has caused monetary losses to the national exchequer they can be stopped from leaving the country,” Ashfaq told the court.
“Remember, those who are in the government today may be sitting in the opposition tomorrow,” Justice Farrukh said, adding that “the chief justice and Supreme Court judges are unhappy with the way NAB is conducting itself”.
“NAB law is prevalent [in the country]? Is the country going to be run by NAB? Should the courts and the parliament stop functioning?” he added.
Following this, the additional attorney general pointed out that the respondents of the petition are currently in Islamabad, which is why the case cannot be heard currently.
The court also issued the Interior Ministry a notice, seeking a reply on the matter within 15 days and granted Hamza permission to travel abroad for 10 days.
In his petition, the opposition leader stated that he wants to travel abroad to see his ailing wife, who is undergoing medical treatment in the United Kingdom. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader had made the Ministry of Interior, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), DG Immigration and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) respondents in the petition.
He further said that “the right to travel and free movement was guaranteed under the Constitution, however, the impugned memorandum issued by the interior ministry was in utter violation of his fundamental rights”.
Hamza had further pleaded that “the act of placing his name on the ECL was in violation of Articles 2-A, 4, 9, 15, and 25 of the Constitution”.
“I am the representative of the people of the largest province and have been taking regular part in all the NAB inquiries [against myself]. However, pending NAB cases have been made the reason for the inclusion of my name in the ECL,” the petitioner had said, requesting the court to direct the ministry to remove his name from the no-fly list and keeping the impugned memorandum for being unlawful aside.
In November, NAB had written to the Interior Ministry requesting the placement of Hamza and Salman’s names on the ECL.
According to NAB, the brothers ─ in their capacity as directors of Ramzan Sugar Mills ─ had a bridge linking to their mills constructed in Chiniot using public funds. The Rs200 million project was approved by then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, NAB claims.
Hamza is also facing an inquiry into the Saaf Pani Company case for presiding over some meetings of the board of directors and allegedly issuing orders regarding the award of contracts. NAB claimed Hamza was not even a member of the board at the time.