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Cabinet allows placing Shehbaz Sharif’s name on ECL

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has approved to place PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendation of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Sources said that the approval of the inclusion of Shahbaz Sharif’s name in the no-fly list was given through a circulation summary.

After approval, the summary was sent to the Interior Ministry which would proceed accordingly. An official notification related to the decision will be released tomorrow. 

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had said that a subcommittee of the federal cabinet had recommended placing PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s name in the Exit Control List (ECL) to prevent him from leaving the country.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad alongside Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar today, the minister said the sub-committee meeting has decided to put Shahbaz Sharif’s name on the no-fly list on the recommendation from National Accountability Bureau (NAB), adding that the cabinet would accept the recommendation today or tomorrow (Thursday).

The interior minister said that when the names of other people accused in cases were placed on the ECL, then Shehbaz could not be given special treatment according to Article 25 of the Constitution.

There were three categories of lists: the blacklist, names for which were decided by the passport office, the PNIL (person not in the list), names for which were decided by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the ECL, names for which were decided by the federal cabinet, he elaborated.

Rashid said the NAB had sent an appeal to place Shehbaz’s name on the ECL which was deemed to be accurate by a three-member subcommittee of the federal cabinet, adding that the subcommittee decided unanimously to send a suggestion to the cabinet for approval.

Shehbaz could submit an application within 15 days to the interior ministry against the cabinet’s decision and could also choose to appear personally during the review, he said, adding after the request was received, the ministry would have to take a decision in 90 days.

Shehbaz had tried to run away at Sehri — referring to the PML-N leader’s attempt to take a flight to Qatar last week which he was not permitted to board — because of the Hudaibya Paper Mills (HPM) case was being revived, the minister claimed.

The minister said, “We are not informed regarding any medical reasons cited by Shahbaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment.”

On this occasion, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar said the government’s legal team, the attorney general as well as private counsels believed the case against Shahbaz could be reopened because the government has evidence.

He said an impression was being built the HPM case could not be opened again. “It is the law, even besides this case, that if any new evidence is found that was previously not part of the case, the closed case can be reopened,” he added.

Akbar said the PML-N leaders would have been considered to be acquitted if the trial had proceeded. The case was closed on technical grounds, he recalled, terming the HPM case the mother of all money laundering cases in Pakistan.

The adviser said the case had never gone to trial because the Sharifs “made a deal” and fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2000. The LHC decision stated that neither the NAB nor the federal government wanted to pursue the case so it was “closed on technical grounds”, he added.