ISLAMABAD - Despite existence of the federal government’s Exit Control List, the Federal Investigation Agency maintains a separate Provisional National Identification List under which some politicians including PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz have been barred from flying abroad, a Senate panel was told on Wednesday.

The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights questioned legality of the PNIL while showing its concerns as to how such a separate list could be maintained in presence of the ECL under the relevant law and rules. The committee summoned Director General FIA Bashir Ahmed Memon on next Monday to give a briefing on the PNIL after the interior ministry said that FIA includes the names of accused in the list on the request of law enforcement and security agencies and it had no connection with such a list.

The PNIL came under discussion in the Senate panel when Dr Tariq, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Interior, testified before the meeting that Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hamza Shehbaz’s name had not been placed on the ECL. The committee met under the chair of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar.

The FIA on Tuesday had prevented Hamza Shehbaz, son of former chief minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, from boarding a Doha-bound flight at the Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport, saying his name was on the ECL. Prior to this, FIA had barred two MNAs belonging to Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), Mohsin Dawar and Ai Wazir from flying abroad from Peshawar Airport for the same reason.

Chairman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar told the committee that he had received a letter from the authorities concerned that the names of the two lawmakers had been placed on the PNIL. On this, a number of senators said that actually PNIL was being used to prevent politicians from going abroad and Hamza Shehbaz’s name was on the same list.

When the interior ministry official was questioned if Hamza’s name was not on the ECL then why he was prevented from flying abroad, he showed his ignorance and added that the FIA chief could better answer the question. He however said that FIA includes the names of accused in PNIL, a temporary list, on the recommendations of law enforcement agencies (LEAs). He said that LEAs directly used to inform the FIA if there is an imminent threat of someone fleeing abroad. He told the committee that under the federal government’s ECL policy, prior permission of the cabinet was mandatory before placing anyone’s name on ECL unless directed such by a court of law.

“What is the justification of PNIL when Supreme Court in its judgement has said that neither pendency of trial is enough good reason for placing anyone’s name on ECL nor anyone could be included in the list only on the basis of registration of an FIR,” Senator Khokhar questioned. He was surprised that the administrative control of FIA was with the Ministry of Interior but it was ignorant about this list and said that the situation was alarming. “There is other list also in the dark deep shadows,” commented Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari. The additional secretary had no words to tell under which law PNIL was being maintained.

“There is a perception that people are being placed on no fly list arbitrarily and thus their constitutional right to movement is being restricted,” Senator Khokhar said, adding that people usually knew about the development when they reach airport. “Perhaps PNIL has been formed to avoid legal formalities,” MNA Mohsin Dawar said who was a special invitee to the committee.

Dr Mazari suggested that more clarity was needed on the issue and DG FIA and IGP KP, on whose request the names of both MNAs were placed on PNIL, should be summoned to the committee. “We should know how many such no flying lists are there. Is there any central record exists of such lists,” she said.

The chair remarked that interior ministry had failed to answer the concerns of members on the issue and summoned IG and DG FIA to appear before committee on next Monday.

Commenting on the draft Protection against Enforced Disappearances Bill, proposed by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), Dr Shireen Mazari said that the draft had many loopholes as it was prepared without taking all stakeholders on board. She said that the draft had been sent to all departments concerned to have their input.

“There is need to form Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the issue of missing persons as discourse about such enforcement disappearances was necessary,” she said, adding that the families of such persons should be told as to what happened. “Enforced disappearances are not acceptable in a democracy,” she said. She said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had agreed that the issue should be resolved. She said that she was going to meet all stakeholders in this regard and the government had also held a meeting with the chief of Balcohistan National Party-Mengal Sardar Akhtar Mengal.

“We are also seeking a list of missing persons,” she said, adding that there was recognition within the government that this issue had to be brought to an end. She said that her ministry had recommended four-stage programme to resolve the issue including signing international conventions and criminalising the enforced disappearances. The chair directed the minister that an inter-ministerial meeting should be summoned to take on board all departments concerned regarding this bill.

On another agenda item, Dr Shireen Mazari assured the committee that proposed Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, moved by former Senator Farhatullah Babar, would be placed on the floor of National Assembly not later than next session of the House due in January. She said that the draft bill had been sent to the Ministry of Interior for having its input and it required to be passed under international commitments of the government. She said that failure of the passage of bill would affect Pakistan’s GSP plus status granted by European Union. The committee directed that bill should be finalized within two weeks.