Decision taken in light of an ongoing NAB reference against the PMLN leader and difficulty in ensuring his return to Pakistan, claims interior minister
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Monday announced that the government was placing Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendation of the National Accountability Bureau after securing approval from the federal cabinet.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he claimed that the decision was taken in light of an ongoing Rs. 700 billion corruption reference against the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader. Additionally, he claimed, “five members of the Sharif family are already in London” despite facing similar corruption cases in Pakistan. “Much like his brother Nawaz Sharif, it would be difficult for the government to ensure Shahbaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan once he leaves,” he added, claiming this could cause delays in the resolution of the case.
According to Rashid, Sharif had yet to submit any medical documents justifying a need for him to travel abroad for treatment. “He was also the guarantor for his brother Nawaz. But instead of bringing him back, he was trying to flee,” he added.
The interior minister also suggested that the PMLN leader might “influence” people who had agreed to serve as witnesses against him in the NAB corruption reference if he were allowed to leave the country or even tamper with evidence—from outside the country. To a question, he said Sharif could appeal the Interior Ministry’s decision within 15 days. “Nawaz Sharif did not return, so how could Shahbaz?” he added to another question.
On May 7, the Lahore High Court had granted Sharif a special “one-time” permission to travel abroad for eight weeks on medical grounds. However, when he reached Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport on May 8, he was barred from boarding a Doha-bound flight because his name was on the provincial identification list, which bars terrorists and criminals from leaving their home province without permission.
At the time, the federal government had vowed to contest the LHC decision, with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claiming the PMLN leader could not be allowed to leave Pakistan, as he had served as guarantor of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s return, but had failed to prevent him from staying in London beyond the time granted to him by courts.