Cabinet decides to continue travel ban on PPP leaders

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to continue the travel ban on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwarts, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

The decision was made at a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan at his office.

The cabinet in its meeting on Dec 27, 2018 had decided to place names of 172 suspects of the fake bank accounts and money laundering case, including top PPP leaders and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz, on the Exit Control List (ECL). However, the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the case, had expressed surprise on Dec 31 over placing of the names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah on the ECL and ordered the government to review the decision.

The cabinet in its last meeting had referred the matter to a special committee of the interior ministry to review it. The committee presented its report to the cabinet recommending removal of 20 names from the ECL, including those of the PPP leaders.

However, Prime Minister Khan and his team rejected the recommendations and decided that the names of the top leaders of the PPP would remain on the ECL.

“The federal cabinet has decided not to remove names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah from the ECL,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a press conference held to brief the media on the decisions made by the cabinet.

He said names of the PPP leaders would remain on the ECL until a detailed written order of the Supreme Court was received. “After going through the order, we will decide whether the names of the PPP leaders should be removed from the list or the government should file a review petition against the apex court’s decision,” he added.

The minister said another committee — comprising Law Minister Farogh Naseem, the PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi and Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan — had been constituted to review the travel ban on the 172 suspects. The committee will present its report to the cabinet in its next meeting.

The names of the 172 suspects were placed on the ECL on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the PPP has reacted to the cabinet’s latest decision and termed it a “dictatorial decision”.

“The cabinet decision has not only exposed the ‘ugly’ face of Imran Khan but the fact that dictatorship is prevailing in the country which does not even accept the decisions of the Supreme Court,” said PPP leader Dr Nafisa Shah in a statement.

She claimed that the JIT report was prepared by the PM’s Assistant Shahzad Akbar who misused his authority and the PM’s office. “It seems that Imran Khan is scared of Bilawal Bhutto’s politics and employing negative tactics,” she added.

The PPP leader called on the apex court to take stern notice of the government’s “rigidness” and alleged that the “puppet” government was “using accountability and the ECL as tools for arm-twisting of political opponents”.

Giving details of other decisions taken by the cabinet, the information minister said the cabinet expressed satisfaction over the government’s economic policies which, according to him, had started bearing fruit.

He said the prime minister ordered the law ministry to compile a negative category list in 48 hours as per directive of the apex court of the government jobs which could not be given to Pakistani nationals having dual nationality.

Gas shortage

The cabinet also discussed prevailing gas shortage in the country as a result of which the people are facing problems in the chilly weather.

Mr Chaudhry said one of the biggest gas supply distribution systems in the world, which was in Pakistan, had started giving losses to the government because only 28 per cent of the people were receiving gas through it while others were turning on their stoves through other sources, including liquefied natural gas. “Majority of the people are deprived of gas but the mammoth system is giving us losses.”

He said the prime minister directed the petroleum ministry to formulate a comprehensive policy on the use of gas.

The minister said former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had left a burden of Rs157 billion circular debt to be paid by the gas sector, adding that there was no debt on the sector when Mr Abbasi had assumed charge as petroleum minister during the term of the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.

Talking about Rs1.5 million one-month electricity bill of Prime Minister House, the minister said Imran Khan was astonished why the PM House had received such a heavy bill despite the fact that he had cut down its expenditures and use by not living in it.

“During former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure 85,000 electricity units were consumed by the PM House and now half of it is consumed. Even then the present consumption is quite higher than the PM’s expectations,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister ordered an audit of the staff responsible for managing the PM House.

According to him, the cabinet decided to appoint senior officials as heads of different government departments on temporary basis.

Aviation Secretary retired Squadron Leader Shahrukh Nusrat has been made acting managing director of the Civil Aviation Authority and retired air marshal Arshad Malik acting chief executive officer of the Pakistan International Airlines. Muhammad Saleh Farooqui has been given additional charge of managing director of the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company.

Anjum Asad has been appointed member of the National Tariff Commission and Ayesha Aziz managing director of the Pak-Brunei Investment Company.