The federal cabinet on Tuesday consented to placing the names of two of former prime minister Imran Khan’s close aides — Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Ziaul Mustafa Naseem — on the no-fly list over their alleged involvement in a financial scam, at the request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

According to a statement issued after a cabinet meeting in Islamabad, the cabinet approved the inclusion of 10 people on the Exit Control List (ECL), removal of 22 and grant of one-time permission (OTP) to three others, on the recommendations of the Ministry of Interior.

A senior government official said the names of Akbar and Naseem, a legal expert in the Asset Recovery Unit of the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) regime, were placed on the ECL on the recommendation of the NAB.

Both Akbar and Naseem are presently in the UK. As per practice, if a person whose name is placed on ECL is abroad, he is arrested on his return and handed over to the relevant law-enforcement agency.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) had reportedly frozen the assets of Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz’s family for being “illegal”, and in December 2019 agreed to a settlement worth £190 million with the family.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has, in the past, accused Akbar and PTI chief Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi of accepting Rs5 billion and hundreds of kanals from the housing developer in return for “providing protection” to the real estate firm in the same case during their term.

The minister had said that the housing society had “illegally transferred” Rs50bn to a Pakistani national in the UK. The transfer, he said, was identified by the UK’s NCA, and claimed that Imran Khan had tasked Akbar with resolving the matter, while Rs50bn — which belonged to the national treasury — was adjusted against Bahria Town’s liability of Rs460bn in another case in the Supreme Court.

The minister had also claimed Bahria Town then entered into an agreement and allotted 458 kanals worth Rs530 million to Al-Qadir Trust, owned by Imran and his wife.

On the other hand, Shahzad Akbar said Islamabad was bound in a validly executed legal obligation with the UK’s NCA through an undertaking ensuring data protection and confidentiality of settlement agreement between the two parties, after its due approval by the federal cabinet in December 2019.

In a letter written to the cabinet division secretary on July 30, Akbar referred to a cabinet sub-committee formed on the asset freezing orders and funds repatriation to Pakistan in the case of Bahria Town, and cautioned about breaching the agreement and its legal repercussions.

He said the government being privy to certain details of an agreement and correspondence executed between a private party and the NCA, signed a deed of confidentiality. “… if this sub-committee is in process of breach of any term of this agreement/deed, it will be a breach committed by the contractual party i.e. the government of Pakistan, having its own legal liabilities and consequences.”

He then advised the committee to first seek a legal opinion from the attorney general. He also said he was ready to reply to the NAB’s queries online from the Pakistan High Commission in the UK.

Moreover, the cabinet also approved the inclusion of 10 others on the ECL, removal of 22 and grant of one-time permission to travel abroad to three people, on the recommendations of the Interior Ministry.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Later, the cabinet was given a detailed briefing on the impact of climate change in the country. It was also informed that Pakistan had been placed among the eight worst climate-affected countries during the last 10 years when it had added just one per cent of emissions as compared to the rest of the world, aggravating the global warming impacts.

It was underlined that there was a dire need for immediate implementation of the ‘Mitigation and Adaptation’ mechanism. It was also decided that the issues of climate change and global warming should be included in school and college syllabi, besides ensuring strict implementation of climate change policies.

The cabinet also stressed upon planning rain harvesting on war-footing and considered a suggestion over commencement of a pilot project in Islamabad under the project.

It also unanimously approved the constitution of a cabinet committee, headed by Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman and comprising relevant ministers who would present their recommendations over the short-, medium- and long-term projects.

The cabinet further granted approval to the Finance Ministry’s recommendation for fixing a minimum diyat amount for the year 2022-23, equal to 30,630 grammes of silver, which amounted to more than Rs430,000 approximately.

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