Govt given a week’s time by LHC to decide on Maryam’s request to be removed from ECL

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday, while disposing of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz’s petition seeking removal of her name from the Exit Control List (ECL), directed the federal government’s review committee to decide on the matter within seven days.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, took up the PML-N vice president’s petition seeking the removal of her name from the ECL and directed the review committee to issue its decision as per the law.

During the proceedings, Maryam’s lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar said that the court should change her petition’s status to “pending” and direct the government to decide on the review application. However, the court said they didn’t want to increase the pressure on the government by doing so and disposed of the petition, directing the government to decide on the review application.

On Saturday, Maryam filed a petition in the LHC seeking the removal of her name from the ECL.

Maryam is currently on bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case, in which she is a suspect, but her name remains on the no-fly list. Her father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, travelled to London last month after the government and courts granted him permission to fly abroad on medical grounds.

During the proceedings today, Maryam’s lawyer said through allegations of corruption and corrupt practices, his client’s name was placed on the ECL. He said that without hearing her stance, Maryam’s name was placed on the Exit Control List.

According to Advocate Amjad Pervaiz, the federal government had opposed the ECL Ordinance.

Justice Najafi said under Section 3 of the ECL Ordinance, they could file a review application before the federal government.

Maryam’s counsel said they have not submitted any application with the government to remove her name from the ECL, adding that there was no better forum than the court to address the matter.

He said that government ministers were constantly saying they wouldn’t let Maryam go abroad, adding that the government itself didn’t want to her to go abroad.

Justice Najafi said they should submit a request with the federal government so that they can decide on the matter, adding that the court wants institutions to do their specific work.

Advocate Pervaiz said Maryam’s father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, is not well and she wants to go to him.

“How can Maryam give a request to the government, they themselves are sitting ready to take steps against her,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, the LHC issued a notice to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Maryam’s request for the release of her passport. Earlier, Maryam had filed a miscellaneous application seeking the release of her passport. The LHC while granting her bail last month had directed the PML-N vice president to surrender her passport to secure her release.

Maryam petitions LHC

The petition requesting the removal of Maryam’s name from the ECL had listed the federal government, Federal Investigation Agency, and chairman and director general of NAB as respondents.

In her petition, Maryam had argued that her name was placed on the ECL without notice and providing her with an opportunity of hearing through a memorandum dated August 20, 2018.

The application stated that the recommendations by NAB were “acted upon in a mechanical manner and without judicious application of mind in contravention of the law declared by the superior courts”.

According to the petition, the apprehension by the government and NAB that Maryam will abscond if allowed to travel abroad does not appeal to reason in view of her track record. It said during the filing of corruption references against them by NAB in the Accountability Court of Islamabad, Maryam and her father were attending to Kulsoom Nawaz who was undergoing cancer treatment in London; despite this, they returned to Pakistan to face the trial.

“It is also an admitted fact that the petitioner and her father volunteered to come back to surrender […] even after a judgment of conviction announced in their absence” in the Avenfield reference, the petition argued.

It stated that the move to place Maryam’s name on the no-fly list was prompted by “political rhetoric, irrelevant and considerations extraneous to law” and that the jurisdiction to impose ban on travel by an accused or convict is the “exclusive domain” of the concerned court of law and not the government and NAB.

Noting that her father was shifted abroad on account of his critical health condition, the petition said Maryam is “also entitled to relief on compassionate and humanitarian grounds”.

It said after her mother’s demise, it is Maryam who has been looking after her ailing father “who is much dependent upon her”.

Maryam had requested the LHC to declare the memorandum through which her name was placed on the ECL last year as “illegal, without lawful authority, void ab-initio and of no legal effect”, and direct the government to delete her name from the ECL.

Until this petition is decided, the PML-N leader had requested the LHC to grant her a “one-time permission” to travel abroad for six weeks from the date of departure.