Travel blacklists to be trimmed, says minister

Published December 17, 2020
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed speaks to the media outside the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headquarters on Wednesday. — PID
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed speaks to the media outside the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headquarters on Wednesday. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Wednesday said it was inappropriate to keep people on the Exit Control List (ECL) as well as the blacklist for long without any cogent reason and announced that the two lists would be cut down.

Talking to reporters after visiting the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headquarters, Mr Ahmed, who has recently been assigned the interior ministry, said there were around 4,500 individuals on the ECL and several thousand on the blacklist.

The Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, promulgated by Gen Ziaul Haq regime on Dec 21, 1981, arms the federal government with sweeping powers to stop any person from leaving Pakistan.

The minister said the FIA must be made a people-friendly institution and vowed to enhance its capacity. He said he had given a go-ahead to make 2,000 inductions in different wings of the agency, including the cybercrime wing.

He said he would address the issue of paucity of funds facing the FIA and promised to make Rs2 billion available to the investigation agency.

In response to a question, Mr Ahmed said the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) threat of tendering resignations would only serve as a sparkler and not a political atom bomb.

He said the opposition could come to the capital if it wanted to but democracy would head towards a dead end if it took any extreme step.

The interior minister said the government wanted to hold a ‘positive dialogue’ with the opposition, adding that the Pakistan Peoples Party supported a democratic process and was in a better position at the moment.

He downplayed the harsh statements made by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and said, “You have to do this at rallies.”

Sheikh Rashid was of the view that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif would take politics forward with a positive approach.

He said Shehbaz was a man of reconciliation and pointed out that the resignations should be submitted to party heads. Mr Ahmed said the opposition had set February as the month to march on Islamabad.

“It would be better if they come early,” he added. He, however, said Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to find out a middle way.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2020

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