Fake accounts case: Names of 172 suspects placed on ECL to be sent to review committee

Updated January 02, 2019

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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday announced that a list of 172 individuals placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendation of a joint investigation team (JIT) probing the fake accounts case will be sent to a review committee functioning under the interior ministry.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad following a meeting of the federal cabinet, Chaudhry said the move was in accordance with orders of the Supreme Court, which had directed the cabinet on Monday to reconsider its “hasty decision” of placing the names of 172 people, including Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and other PPP stalwarts, on the no-fly list.

The ECL review committee of the interior ministry will present a report before the cabinet next week stating the reasons "why the placement of the [172] names on the ECL should be reviewed".

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"After looking at the material [submitted by the review committee], it will be decided how this matter goes forward."

Explaining the procedure of adding names on the ECL, Chaudhry said the relevant investigation agency first sends its recommendations to the interior ministry. The ministry then forwards the names to the cabinet for implementation.

He said the current cabinet had made the "principled" decision to add names of suspects on the no-fly list whenever a JIT or agency sends them "and according to that same policy, we added the [172] names on ECL when they were sent to us by the JIT". He said there were precedents in national politics to support this decision.

"We have seen that in Pakistan, whoever could prove to be helpful in investigations was made to flee the country," he said, citing the "most glaring" example of former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who he alleged had fled the country on then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's airplane and has since not returned.

And so the cabinet will decide the fate of the 172 individuals' names keeping in view these "bitter examples" following the review committee's recommendations, the minister revealed.

On the recommendations of the JIT, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on December 27 decided to place the names of 172 individuals on the ECL, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Murad Ali Shah, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.

5 units put on privatisation priority list

Chaudhry announced that the cabinet has decided to place five projects and units on the government's priority list for privatisation. These include the 1,230 MW Haveli Bahadur Shah power project, government shares in Mari Petroleum Company, Lakhra coalmines, Services International Hotel in Lahore. In addition, a cabinet committee will finalise matters regarding the sale of K-Electric.

Also, he said, a committee led by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak has been tasked with identifying nearly 150 properties on "prime" state land. The list of such properties will be presented in the next cabinet meeting and a decision will be made regarding their disposal.

The minister separately announced that the government has decided to add three vacancies of judges in the Islamabad High Court. The court will now have nine judges in addition to its chief justice.

Social schemes brought under council

As part of the government's flagship programme to end poverty, the cabinet decided to bring all organisations and schemes focused on social issues and poverty alleviation, such as the Benazir Income Support Programme and Pakistan Baitul Mal, under the umbrella of the Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council.

Headed by Dr Sania Nishtar, the council will coordinate with all departments to devise a coordinated programme to effectively lift the poor segments of society.

Customs duty abolished on drilling equipment

The cabinet also decided to abolish the additional customs duty on the "temporary import of major equipment of exploration drilling wells". This was done because the government believes that foreign investment in oil and gas exploration sectors should not be taxed, but taxes should be levied on the income from such investment, Chaudhry said.

He announced that a high-powered committee had been formed to make efforts for development and alleviation of Karachi. The convener of the body will be Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and will include lawmakers from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The cabinet also approved a loan of 130 million euros for the next phase of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project.