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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered the removal of former president Pervez Musharraf's name from the Exit Control List (ECL), allowing him to travel abroad for medical treatment.

A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali, while hearing a pending federal government appeal against a 2014 Sindh High Court order removing Musharraf's name from the ECL, upheld the ruling.

The government's appeal was rushed through by the government on June 14, 2014 on the apprehension that once Musharraf left the country, he may not return to stand trial under Article 6 of the Constitution.

On June 23, 2014, the apex court had suspended the SHC judgment until it decided the pending appeal, and also formulated a set of questions to determine whether Musharraf could be allowed to leave Pakistan.

Farogh Naseem (L) and Faisal Hussain (R) lawyers of  Pervez Musharraf address media representatives as they leave The Supreme Court building in Islamabad. -AFP
Farogh Naseem (L) and Faisal Hussain (R) lawyers of Pervez Musharraf address media representatives as they leave The Supreme Court building in Islamabad. -AFP

The apex court had, in an earlier verdict on April 8, 2013, ordered the government to place Musharraf’s name on the ECL and ensure that he did not leave Pakistan until the court order was varied or modified.

The five-member bench today gave the order after hearing the arguments of Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt, the petitioner representing the federal government, and Barrister Farogh Nasim, Musharraf's counsel.

"For reasons recorded separately, the [federal government's] appeal has been dismissed," the order said.

However, the order will not preclude the federal government and special court's proceedings against him under Article 6 from passing any appropriate legal order for regulating his custody or movement, it said.

Musharraf, who is facing a treason trial for clamping emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007, has been ordered by a three-judge special court seized to record his statement on March 31.

The bench today also disposed off Musharraf's application seeking one-time permission to proceed abroad for the treatment of a spinal ailment that has afflicted him for some time now on the grounds that the petition was now infructuous.

'Medical condition has worsened'

Musharraf, in a fresh application, stated that his medical condition has greatly worsened.

The application recalls a May 4, 2014 medical report, prepared by a private medical board consisting of top neurologists and orthopaedic surgeons from Karachi, which stated that Musharraf had fractured his vertebra.

The report had also indicated that the treatment for this kind of a fracture was not available in Pakistan, and surgery had to be performed in Dubai, North America or Europe.

Over the past two years, Musharraf’s condition had been deteriorating, but things took a serious turn on Feb 11, 2016 when he had to be rushed to PNS Shifa Hospital in Karachi.

Subsequently, on Feb 18, Musharraf complained of severe pain in the lower back and numbness in the left leg. Dr Imtiaz Hashmi, a leading consultant and orthopaedic spinal surgeon who had been treating Musharraf since 2011, was rushed to the applicant’s house and advised him complete bed rest.

Musharraf was brought to PNS Shifa again on Feb 24, where he fell while on his way to the bathroom. In view of different tests conducted on Feb 24 and 25, the application maintained, doctors had advised Musharraf emergency surgery performed to correct the fracture in the vertebra and avoid any serious complications.

ECL overhaul

The process for rationalisation of the ECL was initiated in May 2015. Thousands of names were struck off the list as the new policy came into effect, some of which had been on the ECL for over a decade.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar emphasised the need for rationalisation of the ECL, as the list contained several names that had been put there on the basis of personal grudges and with mala fide intent.

The interior ministry last year issued 7,500 notices to departments that had placed the names of different people on it. The departments were asked to justify the placing of names on the ECL within a month.

However, after a lukewarm response, Nisar issued a warning saying that the names of persons with weak or no cases against them would be deleted from the ECL and announced the removal 4,987 names from the list in September.

The interior minister said only those names that had been on the ECL for less than three years had been retained.

Nisar had said that the names of people who were involved in anti-state activities or terrorism, had links with proscribed organisations, had names on the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act or those who had been placed on the list on the orders of the superior judiciary had not been removed.

Under the new policy a name will be placed on the ECL only after scrutiny by a four-member ECL Committee of the Interior Ministry.

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