ISLAMABAD: Defending the travel ban on Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Zulfi Bukhari, the Ministry of Interior has requested the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to dismiss the petition seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL).
On the other hand, Mr Bukhari has declined to provide any evidence regarding his offshore businesses to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) until his name is unilaterally removed from the ECL.
In a detailed reply submitted to the IHC in response to the petition, the interior ministry explained the reasons for which Mr Bukhari was placed on the no-fly list. “The Honorable court may please dismiss this petition with costs,” it added.
Zulfi Bukhari’s name included in ECL on recommendation of NAB which is probing corruption allegtions against him, IHC informed
The reply said NAB had offered Mr Bukhari to proceed abroad even when an inquiry was pending against him.
According to the reply, Mr Bukhari through his counsel filed a representation before the interior ministry for the removal of his name from the ECL and the same was forwarded to NAB on Sept 14.
“In response, NAB vide their letter dated Oct 5 informed that the request of the petitioner has been considered and recommended one-time permission.”
The ministry stated: “The case of the petitioner was received from NAB on May 10, 2018 for placement of [Bukhari’s] name on ECL. At that time the constitution of subcommittee of the cabinet on ECL was under process hence, as a pre-cautionary measure, director general immigration and passport was directed to place the name of the petitioner on blacklist so that he may not abscond.”
The ministry said: “The name of the petitioner [Bukhari] was placed on ECL on Aug 4, 2018 on the recommendation of NAB and the case was also considered in the meeting of cabinet subcommittee held on June 22, 2018 and July 6, 2018 respectively, who recommended for placement of the name on ECL which was ratified by the cabinet.”
The IHC was scheduled to resume hearing of Mr Bukhari’s petition on Tuesday but the court could not conduct the hearing and fixed it for Dec 3.
On Nov 19, NAB submitted its written report and claimed that Mr Bukhari was not cooperating with the investigators probing the case related to his alleged illegitimate assets.
The bureau stated: “The respondent (NAB) has initiated the inquiry proceeding against the petitioner as per mandate of law to probe into allegations of corruption and corrupt practices under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.”
It said Mr Bukhari “did not cooperate with NAB by knowingly and willfully not joining the inquiry proceedings, even after issuance of four summons.
In his petition, Mr Bukhari maintained that he “is a British citizen of Pakistani origin … and is currently at Islamabad … his spouse and children are domiciled [in UK] where his business interests are managed from.
The petition said Mr Bukhari was cooperating with the investigation team but “was shocked and dismayed to learn” that he 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 but such a review only creates an illusory remedy.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Bukhari accused NAB of carrying out his media trial.
He claimed that he was cooperating with NAB and responded to every call-up notice.
“Had I not cooperated with NAB, the bureau would have arrested me for non-cooperation which they didn’t.”
He said NAB sought certain documents from him which were not available in Pakistan.
When asked whether he would avail a one-time permission to travel abroad to procure the required record, Mr Bukhari said he was not interested in a one-time waiver and wanted his name removed from the ECL for good.
He said NAB went beyond its authority by putting him on the ECL that too during the ongoing inquiry. “In civilised countries inquiries are kept secret until the case is finalised against a suspect,” he added.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2018