The Lahore High Court on Wednesday gave Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz one-time permission to leave the country for a period of 10 days.
Hamza on Tuesday petitioned the court through Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar that the interior ministry had placed his name on the exit control list arbitrarily as no opportunity of hearing had been afforded to him before the impugned action.
The opposition leader had stated that he on Nov 27, 2018, intended to travel abroad to see his ailing wife, undergoing medical treatment in the United Kingdom. However, he said, he was informed by the authorities that his name had been included in the list on the advice of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
He pleaded 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.
The Punjab Assembly leader of the opposition contended that a bare perusal of the ministry’s memorandum showed that it had been issued in an unfair exercise of executive powers and failed to give any valid reason.
He 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.
The petitioner asked the court to set aside the impugned memorandum for being unlawful and order the ministry to remove his name from the ECL.
As an immediate relief, he urged the court to suspend the memorandum and grant him a one-time permission to travel abroad till the final decision of the petition.
"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 said.
Justice Muhammad Farrukh Irfan took up the petition in court today and allowed Hamza to leave the country once for a 10-day span.
"I belong to a political family and the addition of my name to the ECL has been made on the basis of dishonesty," he added.
"Does being a public representative means that a person enjoys complete freedom," retorted Additional Attorney General Ashfaq A Khan, who represented the federal government in court.
"These courts are based on the premise that the law is equal for all citizens alike," the judge said.
The interior ministry, passport and immigration personnel, and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) were made respondents in the petition.
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," the advocate general told the court.
"Remember, those who are in the government today may be sitting in the opposition tomorrow," the judge said during the hearing, 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?" Justice Irfan said.
The additional attorney general pointed out that the respondents of the petition [the interior ministry and passport officials] 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.
Hamza along with his father Shahbaz Sharif and brother Salman Shahbaz is facing multiple NAB inquiries, including those into Ramzan Sugar Mills road construction and assets beyond means.