Zulfi Bukhari moves court to get his name out of ECL

Updated October 21, 2018

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Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari.— File
Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari.— File

ISLAMABAD: Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, the special assistant to the prime minister on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development, has submitted a petition to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that has sought removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

The interior ministry, on a request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), had placed Mr Bukhari’s name on the ECL since he is facing an inquiry about “accumulating assets beyond known sources of income”.

Initially, the interior ministry instead of putting his name on the ECL had put it on the black list to restrict his movement.

In a separate petition, Pakhtun rights activist Gulalai Ismail asks the court for retrieval of her passport and travel documents which were confiscated by FIA

Mr Bukhari, popularly known as Zulfi Bukhari, is a close friend of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Even though his name was on the ECL, he managed to go to Saudi Arabia before the general elections as the interior ministry had lifted the travel ban on him within a few minutes as he was accompanying Mr Khan to perform Umrah.

Then Mr Bukhari challenged putting of his name on the black list before the IHC. The court removed his name from the list, but allowed the interior ministry to proceed on NAB’s request for placing him on the ECL.

In his recent petition, Mr Bukhari argued before the court that he “is a British citizen of Pakistani origin…and is currently at Islamabad…his spouse and children are domiciled [in UK] and where his business interests are managed from”.

The petition said that Mr Bukhari was cooperating with the investigation team, but “was shocked and dismayed to learn” that his name was placed on the ECL.

According to the petition, Section 3 of the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981, provides for a right of review for any order made by the federal government, however, such a review only creates an illusory remedy.

Interestingly, Mr Bukhari criticised his own government as the petition went on to say, “the petitioner filed a representation and review petition…despite passage of about two months, the review petition of the petitioner has neither been put up for the cabinet, nor decision has been taken thereon by the federal government”.

It requested the court to direct the interior ministry to remove his name from the ECL.

Gulalai’s petition

In a separate petition, Pakhtun human rights activist Gulalai Ismail also requested the IHC to remove her name from the ECL.

In her petition, Ms Ismail sought retrieval of her passport and travel documents which the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had confiscated upon her arrival in Pakistan on October 12 when she was also briefly detained at FIA’s office in Sector G-13 of Islamabad.

According to the petition, Ms Ismail is the chairperson of non-governmental organization “Aware Girls”. She has received national and international acclaim for her work of empowering women in Pakistan.

The petition said that FIA on October 12 detained Ms Ismail upon her return from the UK in connection with her alleged association with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and “delivering anti-state speech”.

The petitioner, however, claimed that she is a patriotic lady and never indulged in anti-state activities.

Ms Ismail said the federal government placed her name on the ECL and the FIA confiscated her passport without giving her an opportunity of hearing.

She requested the court to order removal of her name from the ECL and direct the FIA to return her passport.

The IHC single member bench will hear the petition next week.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2018