­ISLAMABAD  -  The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) Monday informed a Senate panel that a number of leading politicians belonging to mainstream political parties are facing serious security threats in the face of July 25 elections.

The country’s top counter-terrorism body that is now headed by a former spymaster of a civilian intelligence agency disclosed before the Senate Standing Committee on Interior some names of leading politicians who were facing security threats.

While answering questions of the committee, a Nacta representative said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, Awami National Party (ANP) chief Afsandyar Wali, Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, former chief minister Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa as well as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) leader Akram Durrani and ANP leader Ameer Haider Hoti were facing security threats. He said that Talha Saeed, the son of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who is contesting election from the platform of Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, was also facing security threats besides the senior leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The Nacta told the committee that it had forwarded 12 threat alerts to the interior ministry, provincial home departments and other law enforcement agencies which include six alerts about heads of political parties (mentioned above) by name and other alerts about the senior leadership.

Committee Chairman Senator Rehman Malik while expressing grave concerns over the threats directed the Ministry of Interior to provide full proof security to the party heads and for whom facing threat alerts.

Caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan, after the conclusion of the meeting, denied placing the name of PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur on a no-fly list in the backdrop of an alleged scam regarding money-laundering through fake bank accounts.

Rejecting reports pertaining to the placement of their names on a “stop list”, the minister said that no such stop list existed with the ministry. “There is no stop list,” he said. He also said the ministry had not received any directives barring Zardari and Talpur from travelling abroad.

Earlier during the committee meeting, the lawmakers expressed concern how the Ministry of Interior was managing the blacklist, a no-fly list, in the present of the exit control list (ECL), another no-fly list. The chair recommended that in the presence of the ECL, the current blacklist should not be used for alleged criminal cases and instead it should look into cases only pertain to offence-related to passports. He said that the blacklist had no legal status and no one should be included in the blacklist on the desire or complaint of someone other than the courts. The committee also suggested changing the name of the list from black-list to “restrictive list” and said that the interior minister should be in-charge for deciding the cases regarding adding or removing names from the list instead of taking it before the cabinet for every instance.

Malik directed the interior ministry to formulate rules and criteria for placing anyone’s name on the ECL and the blacklist, adding that it was the basic responsibility of the concerned authority to inform the accused person before placing his/ her name either on the ECL or the blacklist within a week’s time. He argued that it was the right of the accused to have prior information before travelling so that one could avail the legal right to appeal.

The committee was given a detailed briefing by DIG South Karachi about pelting the procession of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and by DIG Islamabad police about the threat alert on NAB headquarters and increased security arrangements in this connection.

The chair remarked said that pelting the chairman PPP’s rally showed that there were serious security lapses which could not be ignored in the prevailing situation. He directed the Ministry of Interior to share the security measures and plans with the committee it has taken for the security of political parties, voters, candidates, polling vicinities and for the foolproof protection of those politicians for whom security threat alerts had been issued.

The committee expressed dissatisfaction over the Sindh police report on the incident of pelting of Bilawal’s rally and directed the Sindh police chief to submit a comprehensive report on the incident at the next meeting. The panel also discussed the incident of Cholistan wherein three little sisters aged 6, 8 and 11 first mysteriously disappeared and then found dead in the desert. The parents of three sisters attended and briefed the meeting about the incident that had happened on June 13.

The Punjab police representative could not brief the committee because of not having the basic knowledge about the incident. He did not know anything about the cause of death as reported in the post-mortem. The chairman expressed great annoyance at the ignorance of the Punjab police directing Punjab Police Inspector General to ensure his presence at the next meeting.

Nacta meeting on elections security

The Nacta on Monday separately held a high-level meeting at its headquarters to discuss terrorism preventive measures during the upcoming election. The main objective of the meeting, chaired by caretaker interior minister Azam Khan, was to review and coordinate security arrangements in the face of upcoming elections.

Nacta National Coordinator Dr Suleman Khan said despite security and intelligence-based operations against the terrorists, there were still intelligence reports about terrorist planning to execute their nefarious terrorist designs during the election campaigns to disturb peace and tranquility and the law and order during the election campaign, said a statement issued by the Nacta.