ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court Thursday summoned a joint secretary of the Ministry of Defence to appear before the court on the next hearing in a petition seeking its directions to investigate removal of Zulfi Bukhari’s name from the ECL and use of Noor Khan Airbase for facilitating the departure of a private person through his private plane.

A single bench comprising Justice Aamir Farooq showed annoyance over how Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s associate, Zulfi Bukhari, managed to travel abroad while his name was on the ECL.

Bukhari was briefly stopped from boarding a special flight on a private plane bound for Saudi Arabia from Noor Khan Airbase to perform Umrah with Imran Khan on June 11, but later permitted to travel.

According to the petition, Bukhari is facing an inquiry and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has been issuing notices to him since February this year, but he has not joined the inquiry. Upon receiving a third notice, Bukhari stated that since he is a British national, the NAB lacks jurisdiction to investigate him, the petition added.

On Thursday, the IHC bench hearing Zulfi Bukhari’s petition seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) ordered him to join the NAB inquiry in good faith.

NAB Additional Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi informed the court that the bureau had moved a request for placing Bukhari’s name on the ECL, but at that time the relevant subcommittee was dysfunctional, so his name had been added to the blacklist.

He added Bukhari was issued repeated notices, but he did not cooperate with NAB, so it had moved a request to the Interior Ministry to place him on the ECL.

Justice Farooq observed the blacklist was meant to restrict movements of a person involved in anti-state activities and wondered how Bukhari was allowed to leave in such haste without informing NAB.

The bench asked the Interior Ministry section officer how and why Bukhari was permitted to proceed for Umrah while his name had already been placed on the blacklist.

Justice Farooq remarked the Interior Ministry ordinarily displayed reluctance to remove names from the ECL despite the orders of the superior courts, but in this case, they showed a remarkable efficiency. He said such efficiency should be displayed in the cases related to the general public.

Later, the court directed the Interior Ministry and NAB to submit written replies in this regard.

The judge also heard the matter wherein the court was requested to initiate proceedings against the officials of the defence and interior ministries for allowing Bukhari to depart from Noor Khan Airbase. The IHC bench directed the Defence Ministry to depute an official to brief the court on this petition.

The petition was moved by a citizen, Muhammad Kausar, through his counsel Inam-ur-Rahim advocate and made the federation of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence secretary, the interior secretary and the FIA DG respondents.

The petitioner stated that on 11-6-2018, Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari, commonly known as Zulfi Bukhari, accompanied PTI Chairman Imran Khan on his way to Saudi Arabia while Bukhari’s name was on ECL. Therefore, he was stopped by the immigration authorities at Noor Khan Airbase.

He added the name of Zulfi was placed on the ECL along with other owners of offshore companies in line with the order of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in connection with its probe into the Panama Papers scandal and the said action of placing the name of Bukhari on ECL by NAB was on the directions of the Supreme Court to take action against all those who owned offshore firms.

The petitioner alleged the PTI chairman used his influence to have Bukhari’s name removed from ECL and the Ministry of Interior issued a letter granting one-time permission to Bukhari for six days.

The counsel for Kausar contended the proper procedure was not followed for the removal of Zulfi’s name from the ECL, which required clearance from the cabinet’s subcommittee that deals with the ECL cases. He further alleged Bukhari’s name was removed from the ECL on the intervention of Caretaker Interior Minister Azam Khan who is closely linked to PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

He continued the caretaker interior minister is a board member of Imran Khan Foundation (IKF), a charity and welfare organisation managed by the PTI chairman. Inam argued that in order to compromise the impartiality of the interim government and state institutions, special arrangements were made for PTI Chairman Imran Khan to use the Air Force base to fly on his chartered plane with full protocol. “The use of a military base for his private visit is against the rules and such facility is not extended to any other citizen or the head of any other political party,” said the counsel.

He prayed to the court to direct the FIA DG to probe on whose orders and directions the name of Zulfiqar Hussain Bukhari was removed from the ECL and under what authority of law Noor Khan Airbase reserved for defence purposes was used to facilitate the departure of a private person through his private plane.

He further prayed to the court to initiate appropriate disciplinary/criminal proceedings against the entire chain of command for compromising the impartiality and fairness of the forthcoming general elections.



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