ISLAMABAD: Although it removed Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari – better known as Zulfi Bukhari – from the interior ministry’s blacklist, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has allowed the ministry to proceed with the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) request to place Mr Bukhari on the exit control list (ECL).

Mr Bukhari is a close aide to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, and is currently in charge of Mr Khan’s campaign in NA-53.

Mr Bukhari was stopped by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at Nur Khan Airbase while accompanying Mr Khan to Saudi Arabia because his name was on the interior ministry blacklist. However, the ministry allowed him to travel abroad minutes later.

Court removed Bukhari from ministry’s blacklist last week

Upon his return, Mr Bukhari filed a petition before the IHC seeking the removal of his name from the blacklist.

After hearing from NAB, the ministry and the FIA, the IHC accepted Mr Bukhari’s petition and directed the ministry to remove him from the blacklist last week.

The court was informed by the ministry that Mr Bukhari was placed on the blacklist as a precautionary measure in response to a request from NAB to include his name on the ECL, because the subcommittee tasked with approving the inclusion of names in the ECL was dysfunctional at the time the request was sent.

The IHC order discussed in detail the concept of placing a citizen on the blacklist.

“The provision for placing the name of a person on the ‘blacklist’ is provided in the Passport and Visa Manual, 2006, which apparently, has no statutory backing and is a Manual created by the Executive Authority and operates as SOP for respondent No.2 (FIA),” the order stated.

“The bare perusal of referred clause shows that the decision to place the name of any citizen of Pakistan on ‘blacklist’ is taken by the passport issuing authority and it has to be provided full particulars of the referred person along with reasons for his blacklisting.”

The court observed that NAB is conducting an inquiry against Mr Bukhari due to allegations that he, in connivance with others, had established offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands.

It was on this basis that NAB asked the interior ministry to place his name on the ECL.

The court has allowed the ministry to take the necessary steps to place Mr Bukhari on the ECL, stating: “It is needless to observe that [the interior ministry] shall be at liberty to take appropriate action in accordance with law on the application of [NAB] for placing the name of petitioner on Exit Control List.”

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2018