ISLAMABAD: The Islam­abad High Court (IHC) on Thursday ordered removal of the name of former director general of the Inter-Ser­vices Intelligence (ISI) ret­ired Lt Gen Asad Durrani from the Exit Control List (ECL).

Chief Justice Athar Min­allah issued the order while hearing Mr Durrani’s petition seeking removal of his name from the ECL.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Minallah asked Deputy Attorney General Syed Mohammad Tayyab as to why the name of the former ISI chief had been kept on the no-fly list.

Mr Tayyab replied that Mr Durrani’s name was on the ECL due to a pending inquiry against him.

However, Justice Min­allah pointed out that there was no record to suggest that Mr Durrani, a retired three-star general, was facing any probe and said that there was no tangible reason for placing his name on the ECL.

The court summoned the additional attorney general (AAG) and after a short break resumed the hearing.

Lt Col Kafeel, representing the defence ministry, also appeared in the court with AAG Tariq Mehmood Khokhar.

After hearing them, the court observed that they were unable to satisfy it that after conclusion of an inquiry against Mr Durrani, there existed a valid justification for keeping his name on the ECL.

“There is no valid ground on the touchstone of the principles and law highlighted in the judgement of this Court titled “Muham­mad Amjad v. Federation of Pakistan” [2017 PCrLJ 1266] to justify keeping the name on the Exit Control List,” the court noted.

Justice Minallah said that being a retired officer, it was fundamental right of Mr Durrani to move freely and the government was not empowered to restrict his movement.

The court set aside the notification for placing Mr Durrani’s name on the ECL. Justice Minallah however observed: “This order will not prejudice the power of the Federal Government to include the name of the Petitioner in the Exit Control List provided a valid ground exists, having regard to the principles highlighted in this Court’s aforementioned judgement.”

Earlier the defence ministry had accused the former spymaster of being involved in anti-state activities and alleged that he was “affiliated/interacting with hostile elements specially Indian RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] since 2008”.

In 2018 the Military Intelligence had written to the interior ministry to put Mr Durrani’s name on the ECL for co-authoring a book “The Spy Chronicles” with Amarjit Singh Dulat, former chief of Indian spy agency RAW.

The defence ministry’s report furnished in the court stated: “A court of inquiry under the provision of Pakistan Army Act Rule 157 was convened to ascertain facts about the contents of the book and the circumstances under which the book was co-authored. Consequently, petitioner’s name was placed on the ECL vide memorandum dated May 29, 2018.”

It further stated that the competent military authority had taken cognizance of the contents of the book after thorough deliberation and on the recommendation of the inquiry.

The ministry highlighted that the book contained certain contents related to national security and it was a violation of the Official Secret Act.

In the petition, retd Gen Durrani took the plea that the government had put his name on the ECL in connection with the inquiry related to the book he had co-authored. The inquiry had been concluded and he had been punished accordingly but his name was still on the ECL.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2021

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