ISLAMABAD - Criminal connivance coupled with sheer negligence on the part Water and Power Ministry top babus let former Indus Water commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah flee abroad without having been put on the Exit Control List (ECL), sources said Thursday.

According to the sources, Shah’s name was not placed on the ECL as the Water and Power Ministry had never written to the Interior Ministry to put his name on the list meant to bar any Pakistani flying abroad. The Water and Power Ministry thinks that the allegations on the former Indus Water commissioner were neither serious nor proved in a regular inquiry to place his name on the ECL.

Shah sneaked into Canada some days ago after a Wapda inquiry held him responsible for facilitating and helping India in the construction of 45-MW Nimoo-Bazgo hydropower project on the Pakistan’s Indus River, inflicting a huge damage to the country.

Wapda Secretary Muhammad Imtiaz Tajwar prepared the report, stating that Shah had not taken proper measures under the Indus Water Treaty to stop the project as he failed to raise objections during Pak-India meetings. Rubbishing the media reports that Shah’s name was placed on ECL, an Interior Ministry officer said his name had never been put on the list.

He said the Interior Ministry places a person’s name on the ECL on the request of any investigation agency such as FIA, NAB and other department concerned or on the court orders.

He went on: “The ministry cannot do this at its own and the interior minister, by virtue of its post, and federal secretary interior, being the principal accounting officer of the ministry, are the competent authority to place any person’s name on the ECL after keenly going through the request forwarded by the department concerned.”

He asserted that neither the Water and Power Ministry nor other department concerned had written to the Interior Ministry for putting Shah’s name on ECL.

A spokesperson for the ministry also confirmed that the ministry never received a request from the Water and Power Ministry. Though the Water and Power Ministry thinks that there was no need to place his name on the ECL and on, it had withheld pension benefits to be given to Shah who had retired from his post on September 30, 2011.

Sources said that an additional secretary level officer of the Water and Power Ministry aired rumour that the name of Shah had been placed on the ECL, giving the impression that action was being taken against him in the light of an inquiry report.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Water and Power, Additional Secretary Hamid Ali, was not available for comments despite repeated attempts by this scribe. When contacted, Water and Power Ministry Joint Secretary Imran Afzal Cheema confirmed that the ministry had never forwarded a request to the Interior Ministry to put Shah on the ECL. However, he added that the allegations on Shah were “not serious in nature that needed to put him on ECL”.

But, he added that the ministry had withheld his pension benefits till the completion of a regular inquiry against him. To a question about Imtiaz Tajwar’s findings, he said the inquiry was of preliminary nature and the holding of a regular inquiry was still needed to fix the responsibility on Shah. He confirmed Shah was now in Canada, saying that he had forwarded a request to the Water and Power secretary for the formation of a committee to start regular investigation.

He said in the light of findings of both inquiries, any kind of action would be initiated against him. He added that action could not be taken against him under the E&D Rules as he had retired and perhaps the matter would be treated under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).