The decision by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government to place 172 persons on the Exit Control List (ECL) has gathered a lot of criticism from political parties as well as activists on social media. According to the government, the concerned persons include politicians, bankers, businessmen and bureaucrats who have been named by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Fake Accounts case. In order for the JIT to complete its findings and then penalise people accordingly, it is important for the government to create a barrier in their mobility.

However, the Senate body - where PTI and coalition partners lag in numbers - has approved a bill in order to amend the ECL law in the country. According to the opposition, a person whose name has been put in the ECL should be informed within 24 hours along with a reason of his or her placement in the list. This is a fair enough demand because for any person to be penalised, the reason for the action must be clearly cited to ensure that no laws are being disregarded and the decision has been taken fulfilling the injunctions of the law and without any influence. At the same time, the person enlisted in the ECL should also have a right to file an appeal. The proposed time of 15 days for the government to take a decision will only ensure that no cases remain pending and since there is a condition of removal from ECL if no response is given in this time, this will automatically push the authorities to be more vigilant.

The most important demand in the proposed bill is that of distributing power over the ECL cases to the federal body rather than just the secretary interior. At this point in time, there are claims of selected accountability and in the last few days, several people have been placed on the ECL without due reasons. In order to ensure that no such claims hold credibility, it is important that a federal body oversees the ECL cases. While the JIT investigations are of the utmost importance, decisions cannot be taken in haste. The federal body would have to maintain decorum diligently to ensure no cases are delayed. This practice will also clarify why certain names, despite FIA or NAB cases, have been placed in the ECL and others have not.