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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday did not remove names of 172 individuals named in a joint investigation team (JIT) report on the fake bank accounts from the Exit Control List (ECL), but referred the matter to the review committee functioning under the interior ministry.

A meeting of the cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, decided to give a development package to Sindh and that the prime minister will visit the province amid confrontation between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took serious notice of placing the names of the 172 suspects in the fake bank accounts case, including PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, on the ECL and directed the government to review the decision.

Names of 172 suspects still on no-fly list

It is believed that the cabinet is empowered to decide the fate of the 172 individuals on its own, but it referred the matter of the travel ban to the review committee of the interior ministry.

“Sending the case of 172 accused to the review committee is in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court, which had directed the cabinet on Monday to reconsider its hasty decision to place the names on the no-fly list,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said at a press conference.

The ECL review committee will present a report to the cabinet next week.

The minister said initially the relevant investigation agency sent its recommendations to the interior ministry for placing the names on the ECL and then the ministry forwarded the names to the cabinet for implementation.

He said the cabinet had made the decision in principle to place names of suspects on the ECL whenever a JIT or an investigation agency sent them and, under the same policy, names of 172 suspects were sent to the cabinet by the JIT.

Mr Chaudhry said if the names of high-profile suspects were not placed on the no-fly list, they would manage to escape abroad as had been experienced when former finance minister Ishaq Dar fled abroad in an official flight of former prime minister Shahid Kaqan Abbasi and did not return.

On the recommendations of the JIT formed by the Supreme Court, the cabinet had in a meeting on Dec 27 decided to place the names of the 172 individuals on the ECL, including Faryal Talpur, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.

The information minister said the Supreme Court had barred PTI leaders from commenting on the issue of the fake bank accounts publicly. “However, people know who has committed billions of rupees corruption in the scam,” he added.

The information minister said a high-powered committee had been formed to make efforts for development of Karachi. The convener of the body will be Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and it will include lawmakers from the PTI.

A source told Dawn that the prime minister would soon visit Sindh and meet leaders of the PTI and its allied parties to forge consensus over the demand for resignation of the Sindh chief minister after he was accused by the JIT of being involved in the fake bank accounts case.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan chaired a meeting of senior leaders of the PTI which decided that the Centre would give a development package to Sindh.

The prime minister said Karachi was a centre of economic activities of the country and therefore special attention would be given to the city.

He said the federal government was aware of the problems Karachi people were facing like shortage of water, poor public transport, inadequate housing facilities and out-of-order sewerage system.

“The federal government will play its due role to solve these problems,” he added.

The prime minister directed the authorities concerned to expedite work on the development scheme of the federal government in Sindh.

Privatisation list

The federal cabinet also decided to place five projects and units on the government’s priority list for privatisation. These include: 1,230MW Haveli Bahadur Shah power project, government shares in Mari Petroleum Company, Lakhra coal mines and Services International Hotel in Lahore.

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

It formed a committee headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to identify 150 properties on prime state land. The list of the properties will be presented in the next cabinet meeting which will make a decision about their disposal.

The cabinet also decided to bring all organisations and projects focused on social issues and poverty alleviation, such as the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and Pakistan Baitul Mal, under the umbrella of the Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council. The council, to be headed by BISP chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar, in collaboration with all concerned departments will devise a coordinated programme to improve life of poor people.

The cabinet also decided to abolish additional customs duty on temporary import of major drilling equipment to encourage oil and gas exploration activities. Taxes will be levied on the income from such investments.

The cabinet also decided to add three vacancies of judges in the Islamabad High Court after which it will have nine judges in addition to its chief justice.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2019

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