ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal Friday said that the case to put names of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family as well as former finance minister Senator Ishaq Dar on the exit control list (ECL) had been sent to the federal cabinet for approval.
“As per a ruling by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, cabinet’s approval of all cases related to the ECL is mandatory,” he told reporters during an informal talk at the ministry. “The procedure to put anyone on the ECL should have been amended during the tenure of former interior minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan, but it was not done,” he said, adding that all cases from his [Ch Nisar] tenure will be sent to the federal cabinet for approval.
A private TV channel on Friday quoting sources within the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reported that the interior ministry had refused to place the names of five Sharif family members on the ECL.
The anti-corruption watchdog had requested the interior ministry to place the names of Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (r) Safdar on the ECL. The request was made over the suspicion that the Sharifs – all of whom are facing corruption cases in the accountability courts – may attempt to leave the country ahead of the conclusion of the trials.
The ministry had reportedly been refusing to entertain NAB’s request on the grounds that it would place the Sharif family on the ECL only on a court order.
Currently, a four-member committee headed by an additional secretary of the interior ministry places or deletes names from the ECL on the recommendations of courts, tribunals and agencies.
During the National Assembly session on Friday, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA Naveed Qamar questioned why the name of former premier Nawaz Sharif had not been put on the ECL as yet. “What is the procedure for putting someone’s name on the exit control list?” he asked. “You put someone’s name on ECL even before court proceedings start against them. When the Panama case was going on and even now with accountability court hearing cases against the Sharif family, Nawaz’s name has not been put on the ECL. Why is the policy not being followed in this case?” he wondered. Calling attention towards this ‘prejudiced behaviour’, he stated, “These double standards cannot be tolerated.”
Responding to the PPP MNA’s remarks, former interior minister and disgruntled PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar said that the policy regarding putting someone’s name on the ECL had changed. “During my tenure, people’s names were put on the ECL even after a domestic dispute. A committee of the interior ministry makes the decision on whose names should be put on the ECL now. The role of interior secretary and other ministers has been finished in this regard,” he said.
The former minister remarked that the ECL committee should make its decision on merit, adding that the recommendations made by the NAB should be reviewed and then implemented.
He also sought a public explanation from the government over its decision to ignore anti-corruption watchdog’s recommendations regarding placing the name of Nawaz Sharif on the ECL. “Why is one person’s name put on ECL, but not the other’s?” he wondered. If the committee has made this decision then the reasons should be presented before the assembly, he said, adding that if the committee has not taken this decision then it is the violation of the same merit which they have mentioned.
“NAB’s decisions used to be taken seriously during my tenure. Now if the recommendations of NAB have been ignored, then it has not been decided by the committee but it has come from elsewhere,” Chaudhry Nisar stated.
On Friday, the issue also echoed in the Punjab Assembly when Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, leader of the opposition in the assembly, reiterated the demand to put names of the Sharif family on the ECL. He accused Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal of showing reluctance in placing the names on the ECL. The speaker, however, stopped the opposition leader from speaking on the issue.