ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday reserved decision on a petition filed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Zulfi Bukhari seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

When a division bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, took up the petition, an investigation officer of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted details of information they needed from Mr Bukhari to conclude an inquiry into his alleged illegal assets.

The bench on Monday had directed NAB to explain why the bureau wanted Mr Bukhari’s name on the ECL. Subsequently, NAB’s Special Prosecutor Imran Shafique provided the details of documents Mr Bukhari had submitted and the information the bureau was still awaiting for.

NAB informed the court that the information received from Mr Bukhari so far was “not fruitful.”

When NAB disclosed that its chairman had given the petitioner one-time permission to visit abroad, the court asked the special prosecutor whether there was any written permission or the chairman had verbally allowed him to travel abroad.

In response, Mr Shafique produced a copy of the approval and stated that the NAB chairman had waived the travel restriction on Mr Bukhari for one time to enable him to bring the required records related to his six offshore companies.

The bench then asked the interior ministry to apprise the court of the progress on NAB’s letter dated Oct 5 regarding the one-time permission to the petitioner to visit abroad.

An official of the ministry replied that it had been moved to obtain approval from the cabinet committee last Monday.

“Did NAB recommend Mr Bukhari’s one-time permission against any surety?” asked Justice Kayani.

Mr Shafique said under the standing operating procedure of NAB, the chairman had the authority to grant such permission even without seeking any surety bond.

The bench then reserved the order on the petition.

On Nov 19, NAB submitted its report on Mr Bukhari’s case to the court and claimed that he was not cooperating with the investigators probing the case related to his alleged illegitimate assets.

“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 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] and 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. However, such a review only creates an illusory remedy.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2018