The federal government yesterday removed 65,000 names from the Exit Control List (ECL) under the new policy, which is being termed as ‘apolitical’. It has come to notice that the federal government deleted 4,987 names from the ECL while 59,603 names got cleared after the abolishment of the Black List (BL). The policy comes as a fresh change in the business as usual working of the federal government. Upon revision of these lists, it was evident that some names had been there on the list for the last 30 years or more, many were deportees, foreigners or simply small time criminals who had committed passport fraud.

Instead of a Black List, two new lists have been formed namely Passport Control List (PCL) and Visa Control List (VCL). Out of the huge number, 27,452 foreigners have been shifted from BL to VCL. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan maintained that the names had been revised as most of these names were put on the lists due to petty disputes and it is unfair to curtail anyone’s fundamental freedom to travel for this long. Another clause in the policy states that the persons who are put on the ECL will have a right to appeal and the referring authorities will review their case quarterly.

This is a positive development to improve the freedom of the people who have been on the list for many years, denied justice because of the backlog of our courts. Any progress towards improved freedom of our citizens is a welcome and much appreciated step forward. However, the same mechanisms that created such inflated lists are still in place, including political pettiness and judicial delays. It will continue to be easy to come onto the ECL and hard to get off it.