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Monday Jan 07 2019
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CJP orders removal of Bilawal and CM Shah's names from ECL

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday, while hearing the mega money laundering and fake bank accounts case, ordered that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah's names be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) and ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to initiate an inquiry into the case.

A three-judge bench headed by the chief justice and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab forwarded the case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and ordered it to initiate a fresh inquiry into the case in light of the joint investigation team (JIT) report.

Ordering NAB to complete the investigation within two months, the chief justice remarked, "The accountability watchdog can probe Bilawal and CM Shah independently. If after the investigations a reference can be formed, then it should be filed."

Why was Bilawal's name included, asks CJP

Earlier during the hearing, the top judge asked the JIT counsel why Bilawal's name was included in the report.

“In this moment, Bilawal is clean and innocent. He is only taking forward his mother’s legacy, why was his name placed on the ECL,” the top judge asked.

“Did the JIT include him in the matter to bring him disrepute or because someone asked to do so?” the chief justice asked.

Justice Nisar further said, “Bilawal’s career is spotless till now. His [Bilawal's] father and paternal aunt were running the businesses and may have a role in this matter, but what is his role? The JIT should satisfy the court regarding Bilawal’s inclusoion.”

At this, JIT counsel Faisal Siddiqui said, “JIT report page 57 mentions Park Lane property which was brought through fake accounts. Bilawal has 25% share in the property.”

However, the top judge remarked, “How does being a shareholder prove that Bilawal is part of the scandal. We can freeze the property but his name cannot be placed on the ECL on this basis.” 

The JIT counsel then said, "We can delete Bilawal's name from the report." The chief justice then ordered that "all parts of the JIT report which mention Bilawal's name be deleted".

Further during the hearing, advocate general Sindh said, “Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah’s name was placed on the ECL without any investigation.”

At this, the chief justice remarked, “Murad Ali Shah’s self-respect is being damaged. Should have seen that he is a provincial chief minister. Does this happen in any country that the name of a chief minister of the second biggest province is placed on the ECL?”

The chief justice then ordered that Bilawal and CM Shah’s names be removed from the ECL. "Bilawal Bhutto and the Sindh chief minister were only included for political scoring," Justice Nisar remarked.

The court also ordered that names of Anwar Mansoor Khan's brother and Farooq H Naek and his family be removed from the ECL.

A lot of matter against Omni Group: CJP

Earlier as the hearing went under way, the attorney general submitted a clarification regarding placing names of 172 suspects on the Exit Control List (ECL) in light of the JIT's report.

The attorney general informed the court, “The federal government has forwarded the matter of placing names on ECL to the review committee. Further progress on this matter is expected by January 10.”

At this, the Omni Group counsel stated, “The matter has been further complicated by forwarding it to the committee. We don’t know when the committee will take measures.”

Expressing anger over the Omni Group counsel’s remarks, the chief justice said, “If you have an issue then forget the cabinet, I will place names on ECL.”

“You are not discussing the real case,” Justice Nisar further told the Omni Group counsel.

“So much matter has come against Omni Group that no one can shut their eyes to it. Bags of sugar have also been picked up, tell us which court should we forward this matter to?” Justice Nisar added.

The case

The Federal Investigation Agency is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, including Zardari and Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July in connection with the probe.

The former president’s other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed a close aide and Omni Group chairman and his son, Abdul Ghani, were arrested by FIA in August.

Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to sources.

The amount, according to FIA sources, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.