ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government on Saturday dismissed allegations by opposition parties that it was "playing politics" by keeping the names of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) chairman and the Sindh Chief Minister on a no-fly list despite a Supreme Court order that they be removed.
“The government is following a laid down procedure on the Exit Control List (ECL) issue and there is no question of using it as a tool to malign the opposition or anybody else,” Iftikhar Durrani, special assistant to the prime minister on media, told Arab News.
The government added 172 individuals -- including PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, and several other bankers and businessmen -- to the ECL after they were named in a Joint Investigation Team's report on money-laundering allegations last month.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered that Bilawal and Shah’s names be struck both from the ECL and the joint investigation team's report.
Durrani, however, said the travel ban would continue till the government “receives a written order from the court in this regard.”
“Opposition parties are trying to make this an issue for their political benefit,” he said, “but the fact is that this is a legal issue and will be handled accordingly.”
Durrani added that the government had constituted a special committee to review names of politicians placed on the no-fly list and “anybody whose name is on the ECL can appear before it to justify as to why his/her name should be removed from the list.”
Last month, a joint investigation team set up on court orders submitted a report claiming a close nexus between Zardari and the owners of two major business conglomerates, Omni groups and Bahria Town, who had used at least 29 fake bank accounts to launder Rs42 billion.
The JIT filed the report after investigating 11,500 bank accounts of 924 individuals and companies associated with the fake accounts, the document said.
The Supreme Court has referred the case to the National Accountability Bureau with instructions to complete its investigation within two weeks.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior leader Naveed Chaudhry called the findings of the JIT “a pack of lies,” and said his party would present its defence at all relevant forums, including the apex court and the National Accountability Bureau.
“They are playing politics with us," Chaudhry told Arab News, adding that the government has just “exposed" itself by not removing the names of the PPP's top leadership from the ECL.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Mushahidullah Khan said the government was making a "mockery" of the ECL law by placing the chief executive of the country’s second biggest province on the no-fly list.
“The government has failed to provide relief to the common man, so it is trying to hide behind petty issues like the ECL,” he said.
The Jamat-e-Islami, another opposition party in National Assembly and Senate, urged the government to review its decision on the ECL issue.
“The government should try to take along opposition parties to resolve the issues of masses instead of antagonising them by placing names of their senior leadership on the ECL,” Liaqat Baloch, the party's secretary general, said.