Off the ECL

Published June 14, 2014

A COURT order has been handed down, but the speculation continues unabated. On Thursday, the Sindh High Court finally adjudicated on retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s petition against the placing of his name on the Exit Control List — he is on bail facing charges of high treason — and struck down the federal government’s order in this regard. Nevertheless, the former military dictator will now have to wait for two weeks to find out whether he can actually travel abroad, since the court suspended the operation of its judgement for this length of time. This allows the federation to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. As a result, the ‘will he, won’t he flee abroad never to return?’ question that has exercised the minds of many since the charges against Mr Musharraf were framed continues to be asked.

As the court observed, though, courts and countries are not entirely helpless if someone facing criminal or civil charges has to be compelled to return to answer for his actions. The suspicion that Mr Musharraf will try and evade the charges against him has been around since he was granted bail. However, so far, matters have played out otherwise. But more than that, the government itself has set the grounds for the applicability of whatever decision the courts saw fit to hand down in the matter. Back in April, when Mr Musharraf approached the federal government about the issue of his name being on the ECL, the Ministry of Interior informed him that it was “unable to accede to his requests” given the “record pronouncements of the superior courts on the cited subject....” In other words, the hot potato was passed on to the courts. Now that the Sindh High Court has reached a decision, there is little point in dragging the matter on further. However, should Mr Musharraf decide to go abroad to see his ailing mother, guarantees should be required that he will return to face the charges for which he has been indicted.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2014

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