PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday ordered the removal of the name of former MNA Asma Alamgir from the Exit Control List and allowed her to travel abroad.

Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Mussarat Hilali accepted a petition filed by Ms Asma, who challenging the presence of her name on the ECL even after the expiry of the relevant one-year periodand sought the court’s permission for traveling out of the country without restriction.

Ms Asma, who is a PPP leader and was an adviser to former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, had requestedthe court to stop the federal government and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from infringing upon her fundamental right to freedom of movement guaranteed in Article 15 of the Constitution.

Barrister Syed Masroor Shah, lawyer for the petitioner, said his client intended to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.

Accepts Asma Alamgir’s plea for permissionto travel abroad

He said the petitioner, who faced trial by an accountability court in a reference about alleged possession of illegal assets, was a noted politician and vociferous opponent of the present government, due to which the NAB at the behest of the government and her political opponents had been harassing her and her family members on flimsy grounds.

The lawyer said in order to victimise his client, the NAB had initiated an investigation against her over the alleged asset accumulation.

He said though his client was abroad at the time of the commencement of the inquiry, she voluntarily returned after obtaining a transitory bail from the high court on April 10, 2017.

Mr Masroorsaid despite her cooperation with NAB, the federal government on the NAB’s recommendation placed his client’s name on ECL for a period of one year on March 2, 2018.

He said since her name was placed on the ECL for a year, and the time period expired and no fresh notification was issued, the petitioner contemplated to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.

The lawyer complained that his client’s name continued to be present on ECL.

After preliminary hearing, the bench directed additional attorney general Manzoor Khalil to ask the interior ministry whether after expiry of one-year time, it had extended the time of keeping the petitioner’s name on ECL or not.

After some time, the AAG informed the court that in previous meeting of the relevant committee, no decision had been made about the petitioner.

He, however, said he had been informed that in the next meeting, the committee intended to extend time for keeping Ms Asma’s name on ECL.

Senior NAB prosecutor Azeem Dad opposed the petitioner’s plea arguing that she had been tried by an accountability court for a long time.

He added the petitioner had properties abroad and if she was allowed to go out of the country, there was likelihood of her not returning.

Barrister Masroor said his client was abroad and had voluntarily returned and that she had regularly been appearing before the trial court.

The bench wondered when the petitioner was on the ECL for one year, why the government had delayed taking a fresh decision about her ECL status.

The respondents in the petition were the federal government through interior secretary and NAB through its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa director general.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019