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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the plea of retired police officer from Karachi Rao Anwar Ahmed Khan seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) so that he could perform umrah.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar dismissed the petition with an observation that a young man had lost his life but there was no one to make him (Rao Anwar) accountable.

Retired senior superintendent police Anwar, who came into the limelight after becoming the prime suspect in the killing of 27-year-old Naqeebullah Mahsud from South Waziristan, requested the apex court to order the trial court to regulate his movement abroad after removal of his name from the ECL.

On March 21 last year, Rao Anwar had surrendered before the Supreme Court which then ordered formation of a five-member joint investigation team headed by Additional Inspector General of Sindh police Aftab Pathan and putting his name on the ECL.

Mohammad Khan, the father of Naqeebullah, told reporters after the proceedings that the daughters of his son were still awaiting justice, adding that they would observe Naqeeb­ullah’s death anniversary on Jan 13.

Retired SSP facing murder trial says he wants to perform umrah

He said he was surprised that after killing a number of people, now Rao Anwar wanted to perform umrah.

During the hearing, the chief justice regretted that only the court knew how Rao Anwar was arrested and expressed surprise over the way he was released from jail.

When the court was informed that Rao Anwar was on bail, the chief justice wondered why his passport was handed over to him.

In his application, Rao Anwar argued that putting the name of an accused on the ECL and curtailing his liberty were beyond the requirement of reasonable restrictions as regulation of movement of the accused by the trial court satisfied the requirement of reasonable restrictions without completely curtailing and abridging the fundamental rights of freedom of movement.

He said he intended to perform umrah subject to removal of his name from the ECL and permission granted by the trial court. Moreover, he also needs to go abroad on account of his family issues, like engagement of his daughters who have grown up.

Rao Anwar contended that he was required to travel abroad since he was bound to fulfil his moral and religious obligations.

He said he had been regularly attending the trial, the conclusion of which in near future was not possible since even charges had not yet been framed.

The application undertook that Rao Anwar would keep on attending the trial regularly and his movement abroad would never cause any hindrance, delay or impediment in expeditious proceedings of the trial or its timely conclusion.

He pleaded that mere registration of an FIR or pending criminal trial was not a valid reason for placing his name on the ECL as freedom of movement was his fundamental right which could not be curtailed or abridged on account of pendency of trial.

There were many high-profile criminal cases, like those pertaining to the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the May 12 carnage and Ayan Ali, in which the names of accused persons had not been placed on the ECL, he argued.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019