The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday directed those part of the Exit Control List (ECL) to seek the interior ministry’s permission to travel abroad.

The directive came as a five-member larger bench of the SC resumed the hearing on a suo motu notice on the perceived apprehension of “persons in authority” undermining the criminal justice system.

“Persons in authority made amendments in the ECL rules and benefited from it. The cabinet members apparently abolished the ECL,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing till June 27.

At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf appeared before the court.

“Did the cabinet approve amendments in the ECL rules?” Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired.

At this, AGP Ausaf maintained that the matter is under review under a Cabinet committee for legislation.

CJP Bandial remarked that the accused who wants to travel abroad for official work should get permission from the interior ministry.

“Let the system work. Everyone has to work together,” the top judge remarked.

He went on to say that the one-sided legislation should also be in line with legal requirements.

“It’s not an opportunity for anyone to take advantage. We will keep an eye that no institution exceeds their authority,” CJP Bandial clarified, adding that no such order will be passed that causes inconvenience to the government.

The CJP directed the government to make the Standard Operating Procedure regarding the ECL more transparent.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar remarked that the ECL rules amendments will apply to all the cases.

“The beneficiaries made the amendments to benefit themselves. What was the hurry that they amended the rules within two days after forming the government?” the judge asked.

He asked the government to state the legal reason behind the amendments if any.

During the hearing, the apex court appreciated Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for acquiring the bail in Rs16 billion money-laundering case while appearing before the court in personal capacity, and said that it will examine the order granting the bail.

HIGH PROFILE CASES: Meanwhile, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted to the court the record of 42 high-profile cases. The documented evidence was submitted in a sealed envelope while digital records were provided in a USB.

As per the record, the names of 14 high-profile accused, including PM Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz, were removed from the ECL. Aijaz Haroon — an accused in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) fake account cases — travelled out of country after his name was removed from the no-fly list and never returned.

However, Haroon’s counsel informed the court that Haroon was allowed to leave the country for a month but he returned before the time ended. He said that Haroon is in Pakistan and will face the cases against him.

Meanwhile, NAB sought a two-week extension for the submission of records.


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