Self-imposed exile is often becoming the medium of relief for corrupt dictators and politicians to escape the justice system in Pakistan. The general line of thought for defaulters is that if worse comes to worst, they sell their properties, cripple the country’s economy by sending their assets abroad and move outside the country, waiting for an expiry date of their crime to come back and exploit the country further.
This is why the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s move to start putting Nawaz Sharif and those involved in the Avenfield Properties case on the Exit Control List (ECL) is such a welcome one. The NAB spokesman in Islamabad has confirmed three names — Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and Capt Safdar — that had been recommended by NAB Lahore, to be placed on ECL and has asked the interior ministry to proceed further.
This step was much needed after the radio silence of Ishaq Dar, who after leaving for London for medical treatment, seems determined to stay there to escape conviction. If news of his resignation is true, it seems unlikely that we will see the now ex-finance minister see his day in court.
There were similar fears of abscondence by Nawaz Sharif, whose frequent visits to England left everyone thinking if this was the last one. NAB’s initiative is a sensible step in the circumstances, but one that needs to be formalized and consistently used. The names on the ECL still need final approval and action from Interior ministry, which is currently under Ahsan Iqbal. There needs to be increased pressure on Iqbal to complete the placement of his leader’s name on the list.
Rich politicians with foreign connections being prosecuted for corruption cases should be the first on the list, since their chances of a permanent, and comfortable, exile are greater. This needs to be done not just for accountability and justice’s sake, but also for our economy, which is paralysed every time billions of dollars of corruption are moved abroad.