All through the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) veritable crusade against the opposition parties’ politicians, and the Supreme Court’s (SC) activism against corruption, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PT) had maintained that it was removed from the process. The government’s spokespersons claimed, often and loudly, that the arrests, detentions and investigations were the work of independent institutions and that it is not a party in the proceedings at all. Echoing Imran Khan’s inaugural promise – that “we will not victimize anyone” – the party had managed to maintain a reasonably arguable stance of impartiality as the opposition was being pushed into the margin.

Until now

The inexplicable decision of the Federal Cabinet to continue the travel ban on Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwarts, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, despite the SC’s expression of displeasure over the move and order to review it is raising many eyebrows. The reasoning given by the Cabinet, through Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, doesn’t make much sense, and cannot be maintained given the party’s recent behavior.

The party has said that it will wait till a detailed written order of the Supreme Court was received. What is more, even after going through the order, the cabinet has said “we will decide” what to do with the case. This behavior goes against the established practice of the PTI government to immediately implement every order of the apex court. The party, in its pliancy to the SC, has often drawn criticisms from quarters that hoped the party would exert more executive control itself, and limit the court’s activism. Yet, despite the PTI’s publicized support of the SC and its current Chief Justice, the party has chosen to ignore the order – and for the first time said that it may defy it altogether.

This is a radical departure from PTI practice, and there seems to be no explanation for it.

That is not all. The party had referred the matter to a special committee of the interior ministry to review the order. Yet, despite its recommendation that 20 names should be removed from the Exit Control List, the Cabinet decided to deliberately reject it. Again, without any apparent reason.

This step, deliberately taken to maintain the travel ban, seems to be based on no legal rule or parliamentary convention, but purely out of an inherent opposition to the opposition – particularly the PPP. Even if now, after a written order of the SC, the government removes the names, it has shown its cards, and has raised a disturbing question over its impartiality.