ISLAMABAD: Though the Supreme Court will issue its order later, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial on Tuesday made it clear that any beneficiary of the recent amendment to the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010 should not leave the country without prior permission from the interior ministry until the cabinet comes out with a final decision in this regard.

The CJP made the observation while heading a five-judge SC bench that had taken up a suo motu case regarding apprehensions of undermining the criminal justice system by persons in authority.

Justice Bandial described the present times as unique where a political party with majority has left parliament and the country was in economic crisis.

This is an opportunity that while sitting in a truncated parliament, laws so devised should be fair, the executive must exercise its authority in a transparent manner and the three organs of state must maintain a balance, he observed.

AGP assures SC decision regarding removal from ECL would be made in consultation with NAB, FIA

Together the system should function in a balanced and transparent manner, the CJP said, adding that all subservient institutions and the three organs of state should not cross their domain.

There is a perception, the CJP regretted, that persons in authority have taken advantage of the system. He said that while the court didn’t want to impose anything that may be uncomfortable for the government, every-thing should be done in a fair manner or the court will give an interim order.

All that the court wants to see, Justice Bandial observed, is that no impression should emerge that the criminal justice system has closed its eyes towards those who were taking advantage of the law.

“We want rule of law. We have identified that certain persons in authority were beneficiaries and were deriving advantage of their authority. Should we ignore this?” the CJP asked.

During the hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf said the cabinet was still reviewing the issue regarding the Exit Control List (ECL) and no decision will be made in a hurry. Even today deliberation took place, he said, adding that new categories would be added and all individuals whose names were in the ECL will be documented whereas the exercise of discretion will be taken out and everything will be structured.

AGP assured the court that decision regarding removal of names from ECL would be made in consultation with the referring agencies like the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on a case-to-case basis so that trials pending in different courts should not suffer in case some individual involved in the case intended to go abroad.

AGP also assured that no individual would leave without a deliberation with the reporting agency, adding that no one would be allowed to take advantage of or abuse the law.

Earlier Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Aamir Rehman told the court that a joint meeting of the representatives of the interior ministry, NAB and FIA was held at the AGP office to recommend a set of standard operating procedures, which was also taken up by the cabinet committee on Monday, and discussed each and every aspect of the matter.

The committee had proposed a second meeting in which AGP will also be invited, reiterating that the cases of individuals involved in high-profile cases would be re-examined on case-to-case basis with the assistance of FIA and NAB, while also emphasising that for the last one week, the entire AGP office was involved in devising the SOPs.

During the hearing Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan asked how the cabinet committee could review the ECL amendment, while adding that the government was acting as a legislator and a judge at the same time.

The court also expressed its concern regarding the retrospective aspect of the amendments in the ECL law.

AAG also highlighted that there were certain people whose names were in the ECL since 2010.

FIA Director General Tahir Rai told the court that digitalised copies of the record of all 42 high-profile cases of the FIA either under investigation or under trial have been prepared.

A report furnished by DG-FIA stated that the record of 42 high-profile cases of FIA has been verified in the agency’s database maintained by FIA Integrated Border Management System (IBMS).

The report explained that 57 accused persons involved in 42 high-profile cases were active on ECL before April 22, 2022 and out of this, 14 were removed by the interior ministry from ECL after April 22.

The report said that out of 14 accused persons, three individuals had flown out of the country of which two had returned but Mohammad Aijaz Haroon was still abroad.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2022

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