Exit relief

May 08, 2022

The new government amends exit control rules, claiming that the no-fly list was used for political victimisation

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olitical necessity appears to be the key motivation for the recent amendments to rules governing theExit Control List (ECL).

After the new government revised the ECL rules, there were allegations of benefiting top leaders of the ruling coalition – mainly leaders from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). However, the government claims that the new rules will also benefit other people whose names are on the ECL.

The ECL rules were amended quickly after the formation of the new government. Some of the PPP and PML-N leaders have been stuck in the country for several years despite wanting to travel abroad. The first meeting of the federal cabinet also recommended amendments to the ECL rules to stop misuse of the no-fly list.

After the cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that the rules had been amended. He said under the new rules names on the country’s no fly list will automatically stand removed if no proof has been presented against them in 120 days. “This will benefit at least 3,000 people out of a total 4,863 placed on the ECL from time to time,” he said.

Top PML-N and PPP leaders, including Sharifs and Asif Zardari are among the beneficiaries of the ECL revision.

The coalition government took up the matter of ECL revision as a priority. It also directed the relevant authorities to renew the expired passport of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to media reports, former president Asif Ali Zardari quietly left for Dubai soon after his name was removed from the ECL. The names of some members of Sharif family were also removed from the ECL.

“The decision will not benefit one party and victimise another. It will ensure that there is no political victimisation,” the interior minister stated.

After the first cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said names on the country’s no fly list will automatically stand removed if no proof has been brought against them in 120 days. He said this will benefit at least 3,000 people out of a total 4,863 currently on the ECL.

Sanaullah said that the rules had been amended in a way that will ensure that the no-fly list will no longer be used for political victimisation. He said that as many 30,000 people had been placed on two other no-fly lists – the Provisional National Identification List (PNIL) and the Black List. He said these too will be reviewed in 30 days.

The ECL section of the Interior Ministry is crowded at all hours these days as dozens of people have contacted the ministry to get their names removed from the list. Some of the names, according to an official, have been on the list for 10 years. The government, before Eid, claimed that more than 50 per cent of the names had been removed from the ECL. It said similar relief in terms of the other lists was on the cards.

“Some of the people have been on these stop lists for years. They have suffered a lot. No one has been ready to listen to them. Placing people on the ECL arbitrarily has been a chronic issue.When the government wants to intimidate someone, his name is placed on the no-fly list throughthe NAB,” Sanaullah said.

According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Interior, the government has made amendments to the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010. With these amendments, the federal government’s order, issued under Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance 1981, placing any person’s name on ECL shall lapse on the expiry of 120 days with a few exceptions.

The amended rules say that upon the request of the referring agency for extension of such period, the federal government shall provide an opportunity of hearing to the parties and upon satisfaction may extend such period for another term of 90 days.

According to the ministry the amended rules will not apply to people considered a threat to national security, those involved either in terrorism or mass fraud; or those whose names have been added to ECL under a court order.

The writer is a staff reporter. He can be reached at vaqargillanigmail.com. He tweets at waqargillani

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