General

Cabinet to wait for SC written order regarding removal of names from ECL: Info Minister

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said the federal cabinet has rejected the recommendations of the interior ministry to remove the names of 20 individuals from the Exit Control List (ECL). He was addressing a press conference following a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad.
The information minister said that the law ministry had informed the cabinet that the Supreme Court’s written order pertaining to the removal of names from the ECL has not been issued as yet.
Chaudhry said a cabinet committee has been formed, which includes Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem, Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Afridi, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar and the Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan. This committee will review the issues pertaining to the 172 names, looking at the roles of each person, following which it will present its recommendations to the cabinet.
The minister added that once the written orders of the SC are issued, the cabinet will also seek the committee’s guidance regarding whether a review appeal of the court order should be submitted or not.
A visibly disturbed Supreme Court on December 31 had ordered the federal cabinet to reconsider its “hasty decision” of placing the names of 172 individuals, including Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and other Pakistan Peoples Party stalwarts, on the ECL.
The court had taken up the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) constituted to probe fake bank accounts revolving around a 2015 inquiry into the suspicious transactions when ‘benami’ accounts were identified.
On the recommendations of the JIT, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on Dec 27 last year decided to place the names of 172 individuals on the ECL, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Murad Ali Shah, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.
But the apex court had asked the federal cabinet to reconsider the decision in its next meeting and decide the matter after due application of mind instead of merely relying on the JIT recommendations.
“The JIT report is not a holy scripture,” the chief justice had obser­ved, adding that a sitting chief minister was being stigmatised.
According to the information minister, the government’s economic policy was bearing fruit as the import deficit had decreased by $540 million in just one month.
“The prime minister has also ordered the law ministry to compile a ‘negative category list’ in the next 48 hours as per directions of the apex court,” he said, adding that the list will include the jobs which could not be bestowed to Pakistani nationals having dual nationalities.
He said that during the cabinet meeting, the premier directed the petroleum ministry to formulate a comprehensive policy on the usage of gas. “A large part of the population is still deprived of gas.”
He alleged that former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi left a burden of Rs157bn as loans to be paid by the gas sector. He further said that there was no loan when Abbasi had joined the ministry during the tenure of the last government.
The sector is also facing gas theft, he added.
Clarifying the government’s position on a news item regarding a bill of the Prime Minister House, he said that the prime minister ordered an audit of the staff who were managing the PM House.
He said that acting heads of Pakistan International Airlines, Civil Aviation Agency and other institutions have been appointed, whereas permanent heads of the organisations will be appointed through due process in the near future.
The minister said that the premier has ordered the appointment of a Capital Development Authority chairman from the private sector. “A professional from private sector should head the CDA,” he said, adding that currently the chief secretary was assuming the charge of CDA chairman.