The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday expressed displeasure over how the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief's associate Zulfi Bukhari managed to travel abroad earlier this month while his name was on the no-fly list.
Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, a British national, was on June 11 informed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that his name was on the blacklist, according to a petition filed by his lawyer, Sikandar Bashir Mohmand.
Bukhari was briefly stopped from boarding a special flight on a private plane bound for Saudi Arabia from Noor Khan Airbase to perform Umrah with Imran Khan on June 11, but later permitted to travel when Khan spoke directly to the "concerned quarters".
According to the petition, Bukhari is facing an inquiry and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has issued multiple notices to him since February this year. However, Bukhari has not joined the inquiry, and ─ upon receiving a third notice ─ stated that since he is a British national, NAB lacks the jurisdiction to investigate him.
The IHC today, hearing Bukhari's petition seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL), ordered Bukhari to join the NAB inquiry against him 'in good faith', upon NAB Additional Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi's request.
Abbasi told the court that NAB had moved a request for placing Bukhari's name on the ECL, but at that time the relevant subcommittee was dysfunctional so his name had been added to the blacklist.
He said that Bukhari was issued repeated notices but did not cooperate with NAB, so NAB had moved a request with the Interior Ministry to place him on the ECL.
Justice Farooq observed that the blacklist was meant to restrict movements of a person involved in anti-state activities, and wondered how Bukhari was allowed to "leave in such haste without informing NAB".
Justice Farooq asked the Interior Ministry section officer how and why Bukhari was allowed to proceed for Umrah while his name had already been placed on a no-fly list.
He remarked that the Interior Ministry ordinarily displayed reluctance to remove names from the ECL despite the orders of superior courts but in this case, they showed remarkable efficiency.
He further said, "I wish such efficiency was displayed in cases pertaining to the general public."
Subsequently, the court directed the Interior Ministry and NAB to submit written replies on the matter.
The judge also took up another petition that requested the court to initiate proceedings against the officials of the defence and interior ministries for allowing Bukhari to depart from Noor Khan Airbase.
The court directed the Defence Ministry to depute an official to brief the court on the issue and put off the matter till next Wednesday.
"Zulfi Bukhari vowed to return," interim interior minister tells Senate
In a briefing to Senate Standing Committee for Interior, caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan said that he was told that Bukhari had "vowed to return [to Pakistan]" after which he had allowed the latter to leave the country for six days.
Azam told the committee that the interior secretary had handed him a file and told him that a man named Zulfi Bukhari, who is on the "blacklist", was stopped from leaving for Umrah with Imran.
Bukhari had requested that his name be taken off the blacklist and asked for a "one-time permission" to travel abroad.
"I saw Bukhari's file and gave him permission to leave the country for six days and wrote that he must return," Azam told the standing committee.
He further said that he had not received a call from the PTI chief or anyone else.