Why were three retired brigadiers off-loaded from a Saudi Arabia-bound flight?

Three retired brigadiers, Tah­ir Butt and Zafar Iqbal Shah, and Manzoor Hus­sain Mu­­g­­hal, officials of Bahria Town, were off-loaded from a Saudi Arabia-bound flight.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has placed the question before the government as to why the three individuals were taken off from the flight.

The petition is expected to be heard today (Thursday) in court.

Butt is the head of ‘Land Security’ for Bahria Town, Shah handles land-related matters, while Mughal is the chief surveyor for all real estate projects belonging to the controversial property developer Malik Riaz.

Both Bahria Town and Malik Riaz have been in the headlines recently after the influential property tycoon made unusual social media posts, claiming he was under pressure to take a political side.

This was followed on Tuesday by a raid on the real estate firm’s Rawalpindi offices, ostensibly carried out by the National Accountability Bureau and local law enforcement.

Observers say this is happening against the backdrop of the £190 million corruption reference in the Al Qadir Trust case against former PM Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi, as Riaz and his family members are also among those declared proclaimed offenders by the court for not appearing before it.

Malik Riaz is considered extremely well-connected with political circles and the country’s civil and military establishment, but his Bahria Town business is no stranger to legal troubles.

The real estate developer has been at the center of multiple court cases, alleging the use of questionable and high-handed land acquisition tactics for its opulent real estate projects.

The stoplist document

In court, the three Bahria Town officials asserted that they were removed from a flight to Saudi Arabia by immigration personnel at Islamabad airport while on their way to perform Umrah.

Of the three cases, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb dismissed the petition before him, converting it into a representation and referring it to the Ministry of Interior for a speaking order.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Arbab Mohammad Tahir, however, issued notices to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

In response, the FIA submitted the ‘Stoplist Document’ of the Integrated Border Management System (IBMS), which indicated that the three individuals were placed on the Passport Control List on the recommendation of General Headquarters, Rawalpindi.

An FIA official stated that the petitioners were added to the blacklist/passport control list on the recommendation of an intelligence agency.

The agency’s written statement clarified that the “IBMS is integrated with the system of the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports, Islamabad for the purpose of transmitting real-time information.”

As soon as the name of any individual is added or removed from the PCL, “the same is also transmitted to FIA IBMS to be enforced by FIA immigration authorities.”

However, the court has asked the Ministry of Defence to explain why their names were placed on the stop list, and a response is expected to be provided when the matter is taken up today.

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