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ZULFI Bukhari is being investigated by NAB for owning an off-shore firm that was revealed in the Panama  Papers.
ZULFI Bukhari is being investigated by NAB for owning an off-shore firm that was revealed in the Panama Papers.

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk on Wednesday sought a report from the interior ministry on how Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s close aide Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari, aka Zulfi Bukhari, managed to leave for Saudi Arabia even though his name had been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

The Prime Minister Office (PMO) informed journalists that the caretaker prime minister had taken notice of Mr Bukhari’s flight out of the country on Monday, on which he was joined by his party chief.

According to some private TV channels, the interior ministry has submitted a report claiming that Mr Bukhari’s name was not on the ECL.

Explanation sought from interior ministry that gave ‘one-time permission’

According to sources, the matter was also taken up by the federal cabinet on Wednesday. The notice taken by the prime minister suggests that he had not been in the loop about the grant of a one-time permission to Mr Bukhari to perform Umrah.

Mr Bukhari is being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for owning an off-shore firm that was revealed in the Panama Papers. Subsequently, his name was placed on the ECL on NAB’s request. However, NAB was not taken into confidence when Mr Bukhari was granted permission to leave the country.

According to a letter issued by the interior ministry, a one-time “permission” was given to Mr Bukhari for six days so he could perform Umrah.

On Monday, a special flight flew PTI chairman Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Imran, PTI leader Aleem Khan and his wife, and Mr Bukhari to Madina. The flight had been delayed for an hour after officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and immigration staff at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) refused to allow Mr Bukhari on the plane because his name was on the ECL. The plane took off after an hour with Mr Bukhari on board.

Talking to Dawn, former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb criticised the caretaker set up for lack of vigilance in the matter. “I think Zulfi has a magic stick and the companionship of ladla (blue-eyed) Imran Khan, which is why he got permission to leave the country in an hour’s time,” she said.

She added that there was a committee of the interior ministry which decided such cases, but Mr Bukhari’s request was not taken to that committee.

“On one hand, Imran Khan’s close friend is allowed to leave even though his name was on ECL, while on the other, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has attended 100 hearings in his case in an accountability court but he was not allowed to leave for Umrah,” she said. Responding to a question regarding former dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, she said: “Musharraf will not return to the country.”

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2018