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January 18, 2019

Bilawal, Murad off ECL, to stay in JIT report

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January 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet decided to immediately remove the names of the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the Exit Control List (ECL) as directed by the Supreme Court.

The cabinet meeting on Thursday, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, also decided to hurry the JIT report on money laundering and fake bank accounts case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). However, talking to the reporters after the cabinet meeting, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar made it clear that the two PPP leaders could be put on the ECL again if the NAB believed it had sufficient grounds in this regard. The cabinet also decided against filing a review petition in the case, as such a ‘brilliant judgment’ has already been announced.

The cabinet was briefed on the Supreme Court’s detailed judgment in the fake accounts case and it was pointed out that several important points had been highlighted. Shahzad Akbar told the meeting that the JIT report has clearly indicated that money laundering and other serious crimes had been committed. He pointed out that owing to the grave nature of the crimes involved, the role of JIT has been maintained unlike other cases where it was dissolved after completing the assigned task and in this regard like the Panama case. Citing the Supreme Court judgment, he noted that the JIT would not only assist the NAB in its investigation, but also investigate such things, which fall in the category of other offences. He said an impression is being given that the JIT report could go to dustbin, whereas the Supreme Court has ordered that the JIT be kept intact in view of the nature of the matter. Akbar explained that based on the evidence in the JIT report, the NAB could file 16 references and it has to complete investigation within two months. These cases, he said, would be filed with the accountability courts in Rawalpindi and Islamabad rather than Karachi.

Referring to the names of 172 persons on the Exit Control List, he said the Special Review Committee of the Interior Ministry has been directed to review the issue in the light of the Supreme Court directions. He said the cabinet has constituted a new ministerial ECL Review Committee, consisting of law minister, minister for interior, special assistant to PM on accountability and the head of the JIT. He, however, made it clear that the names of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other accused would not be removed from the JIT report. He said the new chief justice of Pakistan would form a new bench on implementation of the JIT recommendations and investigation. He noted the impression that there was nothing in the Avenfield case, while the case in relation to Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz was very much there and the former premier was already in jail in another case.

Iftikhar Durrani, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Media, said the cabinet had also approved supplementary grant of Rs235 million for government employees who die during service. The cabinet also approved a supplementary grant of Rs750 million for the NAB to increase its capacity of prosecution. He said the cabinet had also approved the placement of development and non-development budget of the Capital Administration and Development Division under the interior ministry. The forum approved the auction of 20 ships of the Ministry for National Food Security. The cabinet also approved the appointment of Maj Gen (retd) Amir Azeem as Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Ali Raza Bhutta, a Grade 21 officer, as secretary Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme (BISP).

At the outset of the meeting, the prime minister asked two cabinet members, Ali Zaidi and Fawad Chaudhry, to leave the meeting as the Election Commission of Pakistan had suspended their membership of the National Assembly after they, along with 70 other MNAs, failed to submit details of their assets to the commission.

Durrani rejected the impression that the government was going to announce a mini-budget on January 23.He also categorically denied reports that the government was going to increase the ratio of sales tax on January 23.

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