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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday reserved judgement on a petition filed by Zulfi Bukhari seeking the removal of his name from the Ministry of Interior’s blacklist.

IHC Justice Aamer Farooq reserved judgement after hearing arguments from Mr Bukhari’s counsel, Deputy Attorney General Raja Khalid Mehmood and additional deputy prosecutor general from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi.

Mr Abbasi told the court that the petition was not maintainable because Mr Bukhari was seeking relief from a NAB directive, which needs to be heard by a two-member division bench.

How was discretionary power exercised over a phone call, Justice Farooq asks

He said NAB had asked the interior ministry to place Mr Bukhari on the exit control list (ECL), but they blacklisted him instead.

Mr Mehmood argued that the ministry had evolved the mechanism to include a name in the blacklist and the petitioner’s name was removed under its discretionary power, to which Justice Farooq asked how discretionary power was exercised over a phone call.

He also remarked that the interior ministry had laid down rules just to break them.

On Monday, in response to a petition filed by a citizen through retired Lt Col Inamur Rahim against the use of Nur Khan Airbase by private individual, the defence ministry told the court that the airbase was used because there were no facilities to operate chartered flights at the Islamabad International Airport.

Mr Bukhari, a British national, was stopped from boarding a private plane bound for Saudi Arabia from Nur Khan Airbase with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on June 11 because his name was on the blacklist. He was permitted to travel after Mr Khan spoke directly to the “quarters concerned”.

The petitioner had adopted before the court that MrBukhari was blacklisted but allowed to proceed to Saudi Arabia after a mere phone call, and his room was removed from the list within half an hour.

The petitioner asked whether the names of anyone blacklisted on orders from the Supreme Court could be removed by a subordinate Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officer, as well as if the defence secretary is empowered to permit any civilian to use a military base to land or take off private aircraft without security clearance from state secret agencies, particularly when that individual’s name is already on the no-fly list.

According to the FIA’s report, “on June 11, 2018 at 1300 hours, FIA Immigration Officer deputed at Immigration Counter of Rawal Lounge of the Benazir Bhutto International Airport Islamabad reported to Assistant Director (Departure) that 06 passengers intend to travel abroad from Islamabad (old airport) through private jet/chartered flight, Operator Princely Jet, Registration CL604, Flight No. AP-BNR for Medina.”

“The scrutiny of Integrated Border Management System showed that one of the passengers namely Syed Zulfikar Abbasi Bukhari...was placed on Blacklist by Ministry of Interior (MOI),” it said.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2018