ISLAMABAD: A sub-committee of the federal cabinet has recommended placing Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in the Exit Control List (ECL), the interior minister announced on Wednesday.
The move comes just days after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president was prevented from leaving the country from the airport after receiving a one-time permission from the Lahore High Court to go abroad for medical treatment.
Addressing a news conference to announce the development on Wednesday, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid said Shahbaz could ask for a review of the decision within 15 days, after which the interior ministry would make a decision within 90 days. He added that the PML-N leader could appear in person, if he so wished, to make the request. Rashid was flanked by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Barrister Shahzad Akbar.
Speaking in greater detail about Shahbaz’s name being placed on a travel blacklist, Rashid said it was not the case at all. “The court’s decision came with regard to a blacklist. Shahbaz Sharif was not on a blacklist,” he said, without elaborating any further.
The interior minister said there are three lists used to prevent someone from travelling abroad: One is the travel black list, into which a person is included by the passport office; the second is the Provincial Identification List (PNIL), into which someone’s name is added by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA); and the third is the Exit Control List (ECL) into which the federal cabinet has the authority to put someone’s name.
“Today, at the request of the National Accountability Bureau, which is pursuing cases against the opposition leader, a three-member sub-committee unanimously recommended to the cabinet to add Shahbaz to the ECL,” Rashid said.
Rashid said that the interior ministry “received no request [for permission to travel]” and “nothing was shared [with the government] stating medical grounds”, whereas past requests had cited medical grounds.
In the hours leading to the announcement, PML-N spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters placing Shahbaz Sharif on the ECL would not “end Pakistan’s debt or reverse the “crippling” inflation brought about by the “incompetent PTI government”.
Separately, in a press conference, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Shahbaz appeared to be healthy as he was moving about in Islamabad, and his condition did not appear to be serious enough to warrant going abroad.
He also said letting Shahbaz go would give the impression that there was a “deal” in the works, and categorically stated that the PTI government was not open to any such deal.