The Supreme Court has ordered the federal government to ensure that individuals placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) do not travel abroad without being allowed by the interior ministry.
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, had taken a suo motu notice on ‘interference’ in the accountability processes.
During the last hearing on June 3, the apex court had given the federal government a week to review the amendments recently made to the ECL Rules and asked the government to bring the amendments under ‘the ambit of the law’.
On April 22, the government had introduced changes to the ECL rules in an attempt to end the practice of keeping people on the no-fly list for years and even for over a decade.
On April 23, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had said that as per the new rules, a person’s name put on the ECL would automatically be removed after 120 days, with the option of extension on the provision of concrete evidence.
During the hearing today, Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman apprised the bench that after the court’s previous hearing, a meeting was held in the attorney general’s office, which was attended by all stakeholders, adding that a cabinet committee meeting on ECL rules was also held yesterday and all the observations and questions of the top court were put forward in it.
He further told that the office of the attorney general has formulated SOPs regarding amendments in the ECL rules and has sent them to all the stakeholders. “All the names struck off the list will be reviewed again one by one,” he added
On this, Justice Ahsan asked what would happen to the names that have already been removed from the list and amendments that have already been made.
“New rules will be made after consultation with the NAB and FIA,” the AAG replied.
Meanwhile, Justice Bandial ruled that people whose names were on the ECL would not be allowed to travel abroad without permission from the interior ministry. “Only those leaving for some government-related work should be allowed,” he added.
The AAG assured the court that until the government completes the law-making process, these orders would be followed.
The CJP remarked that it is important for everyone to work together. “Legislation from a unilateral parliament should be in line with legal requirements,” he said, adding that he does not want to pass an order which would put the government in difficulty.
Subsequently, Justice Bandial remarked that authorities took advantage by making amendments to the rules. “If someone thinks that a case is not powerful, they should consult the courts. But the cabinet seems to have completely abolished the ECL,” he added.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till June 27.