ISLAMABAD - Caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan on Thursday told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior that he granted permission to Zulfi Bukhari to travel abroad.

He also rejected news reports that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan had phoned him to remove Bukhari’s name from the blacklist. He told the committee which met here at the Parliament House under the chair of Senator Rehman Malik that Bukhari had asked for one-time permission to travel abroad, which was granted.

“I was informed by the interior secretary that Bukhari wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah with the PTI chief, but was stopped from leaving the country due to his name being on the blacklist,” Khan further clarified. He said that Bukhari had submitted an affidavit, stating that he would return to Pakistan, following which he was granted permission to travel for six days. He further told the committee that the National Accountability Bureau was probing a case against Bukhari pertaining to offshore companies. “The NAB had requested to place Bukhari’s name on the exit control list (ECL). His name was placed on the blacklist in the absence of a cabinet committee so that he would not leave the country,” Khan said.

Earlier, Caretaker Law Minister Ali Zafar said that the NAB had requested to place Bukhari’s name on the ECL, however, he was placed on the blacklist and not the ECL. In a media briefing, he explained that a person’s name can be taken in and out of the blacklist without the cabinet’s approval, which is required for placing or removing someone from the ECL.

Rehman Malik said that it would not have been fair to place Bukhari’s name on the ECL without informing him about the same. He held that there was nothing serious if Bukhari’s name was put on the blacklist. He, however, constituted a sub-committee under the chair of senator Maqbool Ahmed to probe the matter with the help of ministry of interior officials and submit its report to the committee.

Malik also asked the government to first bring a law for putting names on the blacklist and then start putting anyone on the list. He further sought to evolve a policy for putting any overseas Pakistani’s name on the ECL or the blacklist.

Motorway Police Inspector-General Khalid Mahmood also briefed the committee about the performance of the force.  Malik suggested better wages for the personnel so as to check bribery. He said that a better police was the basis for the development of a country. He also asked the IG to strictly follow the criteria for issuing driving licences. He also recommended computerizing all the driving licences for a better traffic flow and to check accidents on roads.