ONE set of rules for the rulers and their families and friends, another for the ordinary public — there is rightful anger and consternation across the country at the continuation of old ways to the detriment of the rule of law and the creation of a fair and just society. Yet, in the midst of wide-ranging efforts to try and curb VIP culture and flouting of the law, a peculiar case has emerged of inexplicable rule-bending and favouritism. Accompanying PTI supremo Imran Khan on a personal visit to Saudi Arabia was, among others, a PTI leader and reported friend of Mr Khan, Zulfiqar Bukhari. It is not unusual for the PTI boss to travel abroad and his latest trip was unlikely to have attracted any scrutiny were it not for the status of Mr Bukhari: his inclusion on the Exit Control List at the request of the National Accountability Bureau should have prevented him from travelling abroad. But after a short delay of the private flight out of the old Islamabad airport, Mr Bukhari was allowed to join Mr Khan and several others and leave for Saudi Arabia. A so-called one-time permission was officially given to Mr Bukhari.
Certainly, Mr Bukhari and anyone else on the ECL ought to have access to due process and should be able to challenge the inclusion of their name on the list if they believe they have been wrongfully added. The previous PML-N government attempted to streamline and clarify the rules governing the ECL and prevent widespread misuse of the system. Yet, it appears that Mr Bukhari himself broke the rules by securing a sudden and temporary exclusion from the ECL at a moment’s notice. That Mr Khan was a part of the group of travellers has raised suspicions that the PTI boss may have sought and received a special favour for Mr Bukhari. The caretaker prime minister has rightly taken notice of the incident and sought an explanation from the interior ministry. Who permitted Mr Bukhari to travel and why?
Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2018