Govt awaits SC’s written order to remove Bilawal, Shah’s names from ECL


–Fawad says federal cabinet will remove names of PPP chairman, Sindh CM after SC’s detailed judgement 

— Minister says cabinet has directed petroleum ministry to chalk out strategy to overcome gas crisis

–Says trade deficit reduced by $450m as exports witness 4.5 pc increase 

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has postponed the removal of names of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the no-fly list, saying the Supreme Court (SC) has yet to issue a detailed judgement in this regard.

The SC had come down hard on the Imran Khan-led government that had placed 172 suspects in the fake accounts on the Exit Control List (ECL) after the recommendation of a joint investigation team (JIT) probing the money laundering case.

It had ordered the government to review the case. And in a subsequent hearing, it directed for removal of Bilawal and Murad from the ECL. During the hearing, the chief justice had grilled the state prosecutor over why the government had decided to place Bilawal on the no-fly list.

“The JIT will have to clarify one thing: Why did it involve Bilawal in this matter?” Justice Nisar had asked. “What did Bilawal do?” he questioned, wondering if this had been done upon “someone’s directives”.

However, the cabinet meeting chaired by Imran Khan seemed reluctant to remove Bilawal and Murad despite the court order.

In a press conference after Thursday’s meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government didn’t remove the names as of yet because the SC still has to issue the order in writing.

It was expected that the meeting would decide to remove their names. However, the matter has been postponed until the next meeting, with remarks that the decision would be taken after a detailed judgement and written orders by the apex court.

It may be noted here that the SC had taken exception to the placement of names on the ECL and directed the federal government to reconsider its decision. The cabinet, however, had decided to review the decision and take up the issue in the next meeting.

As the cabinet took up the issue, the information minister said a committee comprising Law Minister Dr Farogh Nasim, Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi, PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar and Interior Secretary Azam Khan has been formed to review the names on an individual basis.

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, he added. The cabinet will also seek the committee’s guidance regarding whether a review appeal of the court order should be submitted or not, he further said.

The suspects placed on the ECL include PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, CM Murad Ali Shah, property tycoon Malik Riaz and his son-in-law Zain Malik, Anwar Majeed among others.

As per the minister, the cabinet expressed confidence at the increase of exports by 4.5 per cent and reduction of trade deficit by 540m dollars during the last month. He said it was the outcome of the PM and his economic team’s extensive and prudent efforts.

He said the government would provide ease of doing business to the foreign and local investors to promote economic activities and create jobs.

“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.

On gas crisis, Fawad said the Ministry of Petroleum was directed to come out with a comprehensive plan to address the gas shortage problem in the country.

He said the cabinet regretted that the gas worth Rs50 billion is being pilfered annually from the system and the previous governments took no remedial measures to address this situation.

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.

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.

Speaking on the occasion, Planning Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar rejected the opposition parties’ baseless propaganda about the price hike of different essential commodities.

Bakhtiar said the PM directed to evolve a coordinated price control mechanism at the federal and provincial levels to check profiteering and hoarding.

He said the PM also directed to provide all possible relief to the low-income segments of the society as per PTI’s election manifesto.