ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court has ordered removal of the name of human rights activist Gulalai Ismail from the Exit Control List (ECL).
Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC had on Jan 10 reserved the verdict on a petition filed by Ms Ismail challenging the government’s decision to put her name on the ECL.
The court, however, allowed the interior ministry to take appropriate action, including confiscation of her passport, in the light of recommendations made by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
In November last year, the IHC was informed that the ISI had recommended putting Ms Ismail’s name on the ECL for her alleged anti-state activities abroad.
During the course of hearing, Gulalai Ismail’s counsel Babar Sattar argued that even though she had not been named in the First Information Report (FIR) registered against some Pakhtun activists, she was arrested upon her arrival from the United Kingdom.
In her petition, Ms Ismail had sought return of her passport and travel documents which the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had confiscated upon her landing in Pakistan on Oct 12. She was later detained briefly at the FIA’s office in Islamabad.
According to the petition, Ms Ismail is the chairperson of a non-governmental organisation, Aware Girls. She has won national and international acclaim for her work to empower women.
The petition said the FIA had detained her upon her return from the UK on Oct 12 in connection with her alleged association with the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement and for allegedly “delivering anti-state speeches”.
The petitioner, however, said she was a patriot and never indulged in anti-state activities.
Ms Ismail said that the federal government had placed her name on the ECL and the FIA confiscated her passport without giving her an opportunity to defend herself. She requested the court to order removal of her name from the ECL and direct the FIA to return her passport.
In the judgement, Justice Farooq held that “the impugned memorandum [of placing Gulalai on ECL] is set aside and the respondents are directed to hand over passport of the petitioner to her”.
The order, however, stated: “Needless to observe that since there is a recommendation of Inter-Services Intelligence for placing the name of the petitioner on the Exit Control List, the respondents [of the interior ministry] are at liberty to take appropriate action on the same and even confiscate her passport in accordance with law keeping in view the observations made hereinabove.”
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019