Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday regretted that the government had shown haste in placing the names of 172 people — who were named in an investigation report in a case pertaining to fake accounts — on the Exit Control List (ECL).
“We showed haste in placing the names on the ECL,” the foreign minister said. “The government does not want to do anything in a rush now.”
Qureshi was responding to criticism from the PPP over the “government’s failure” to act upon the Supreme Court’s orders to remove the names of the people from the ECL. During a National Assembly sitting today, the PPP protested over the delay by the government to take the names — which include party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah — off the ECL despite a Supreme Court order in this regard.
Last week, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had grilled the state prosecutor over why the government had decided to place PPP Chairperson Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on the no-fly list on the recommendation of the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the case.
“How long will this government commit contempt of court?” asked PPP leader Shazia Marri in today’s session.
Attempting to placate the opposition party, Qureshi said that the matter was discussed in a federal cabinet meeting and the government had decided to wait until the detailed verdict is released. According to Qureshi, the top court had ordered the government to consider the removal of names, not ordered to do so immediately.
“The government has not refused to remove the names from the ECL; it has only sought time,” he insisted.
PPP MNA Naveed Qamar pointed out that Chief Justice Nisar — who is hearing a suo motu case regarding a delay into a 2015 Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) probe into money laundering via fake bank accounts — was retiring on Jan 17, questioning if the government was waiting for him to leave office.
The foreign minister assured the lawmaker that the government “has great respect for the chief justice and his orders will be implemented even after his retirement”.