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SC releases detailed order on removal of Bilawal, Murad’s names from ECL

Updated January 17, 2019

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PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah were among 172 people whose names were placed on the ECL in fake accounts case. — Facebook/File
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah were among 172 people whose names were placed on the ECL in fake accounts case. — Facebook/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has finally released its order pertaining to the removal of the names of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as well as Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the Exit Control List (ECL), but has referred the report and material collected by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Rs35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“But removing of the names will not prevent NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on [the] ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” says the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench headed by the chief justice that had taken up the fake accounts case.

The federal cabinet had been awaiting the detailed reasoning of the apex court order, and it is expected that when the issue is taken up again by the cabinet in its meeting on Thursday (today), the names may finally be removed from the ECL.

The SC order recalls how the JIT, which was represented by senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, had conceded frankly that the material against these individuals may need re-examination so that the correct conclusions can be arrived at. These names may have been included in the list of 172 persons whose names had been recommended to be placed on the ECL, without the careful examination of the material available on the record, and the ramifications of this, the order says.

Referring to the names of senior counsel Farooq H. Naek and his son, and that of the brother of Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan — names that are included in the JIT report regarding certain monetary transactions involving professional fees for services rendered — the order instructs NAB to re-examine these cases in the light of the material collected by the JIT. In case no cognisable offence is detected, the names of these individuals may be removed from the JIT and ECL lists. However, no adverse action is to be taken against them until NAB concludes its inquiry / investigation, the court order decrees.

Justice Ahsan explains that all members of the JIT will be associated with NAB for the purpose of assisting in any further probe, inquiry or investigation that NAB may consider necessary or appropriate.

Likewise, all cases that have not yet come to a conclusion, or in the JIT’s opinion require further investigation, will remain under the JIT’s jurisdiction, says the order. In this case, the JIT must continue its probe under the mandate granted by the Supreme Court, and complete it within a reasonable timeframe. Thereafter, the order says, all the evidence collected is to be transmitted to NAB, without the need for a further court order, so that the law can take its course.

“We are cognisant of the fact that during the course of its probe and investigation, the JIT has discovered that funds deposited in fake accounts and circulated through the same have been used for other unlawful activities which may not have strictly fallen within the parameters of the mandate granted by this court,” Justice Ahsan has said.

In conclusion, the order endorses all of the JIT’s actions in probing these matters and holds that it will be deemed that the original mandate of the JIT was within its scope.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019