| Interior Minister Sanaullah says decision taken to control misuse of ECL | Rules relaxation to benefit 3,000 people including ministers, senior politicians


ISLAMABAD   -  The federal government on Friday in a significant decision amended the rules governing the Exit Control List (ECL), a no-fly list, which would benefit at least 3,000 people including cabinet members and senior politicians of the ruling coalition in the centre by removing restrictions on their travelling abroad.

Addressing a maiden press conference here at the Ministry of Interior after taking charge of his office, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said that the rules have been amended in a way to ensure that the no-fly list couldn’t be misused for political victimization in future.

He told the media that at present, there were as many 4,863 people on the ECL and orders have been passed to remove 3,000 people immediately.

He said that as many 30,000 people had been placed on the two other no-fly lists – Provisional National Identification List (PNIL) and Black List — and these were also being reviewed within 30 days. “The people have been placed on these stop lists for years, and they are suffering but no one is ready to listen to them.”

The decision doesn’t mean that it would benefit one party and would be harmful for the other one but it would ensure that there is no political victimization, the interior minister said.

The rules on ECL have been amended with the approval of the cabinet and under these amendments, the government would not be able to place any person’s name on ECL for more than 120 days, he said, adding that earlier hundreds of people had been placed on the list for years.

According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Interior, the government has made amendments in the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010. With these amendments, the federal government’s order, issued under Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance 1981, placing any person’s name on ECL shall lapse on the expiry of 120 days with some few exceptions.

The amended rules say that upon the request of the referring agency for extension of such period, the federal government shall provide an opportunity of hearing to the parties and upon satisfaction may extend such period for another term of 90 days.

The rules have been amended in the light of recommendations of the cabinet committee headed by Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar that was formed on Wednesday in the maiden cabinet meeting of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government. The committee was tasked to review rules on ECL, as no-fly list was used for political victimization in the last PTI government, and give a report within three days.

Rana Sanaullah said that the amended rules would not benefit those persons who are a threat to national security, have been involved either in terrorism or cheating public at large. Similarly, those people would not get advantage whose names had been included in the list on the order of any court.

“Placing people on ECL has been a chronic issue for the last many years as any person who has to be intimidated (by the government), his name is placed on the no-fly list after sending a notice of NAB (National Accountability Bureau).”

The interior minister said that the present treasury and the opposition of the past was a victim of this. “We know how people feel when they are served with NAB notices.”

Rana Sanaullah said that the government was providing the same foolproof security to former prime minister Imran Khan as he was having while in office. He underlined that the PTI government had withdrawn the security from the Sharif family deployed at their residences in Jati Umra and Model Town in Lahore.

Responding to the questions about the meeting of the National Security Committee, the interior minister said that the controversial diplomatic cable did not contain the name of then prime minister Imran Khan. He said that participants got a chance to see that communication and if Imran Khan claimed that the cable contained his name, then he told a lie.

Talking about PM Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to North Waziristan, he said that normalcy has resumed there and Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps (FC), Rangers and police had done an excellent work to bring peace in the area.

Responding to another question about the Toshakhana and helicopter sagas, he said that the incumbent government would not register any case against anybody unless concrete evidence comes on record against him. He said that no one would be held guilty on the basis of mere allegations and an inquiry would be held before registration of a case in any corruption scandal.