Rao Anwar asks apex court for removal of name from ECL

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ISLAMABAD: Suspended senior officer of Sindh Police Rao Anwar Ahmed Khan approached the Supreme Court, seeking removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) so that he could travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Umra.

SSP Rao Anwar, who received much media attention after becoming a prime suspect in the murder case of 27-year-old Naqeebullah Mahsudfrom South Waziristan, requested the apex court to order the trial court to regulate his movement abroad after removing his name from the ECL.

On March 21, Rao Anwar had surrendered himself to the Supreme Court which then ordered constituting a five-man JIT headed by Additional Inspector General of Sindh Police Aftab Pathan and putting his name on the ECL.

In his fresh application, Rao Anwar contends that putting the name of an accused on the ECL and curtaining his liberty is beyond the requirement of reasonable restrictions as regulation of movement of the accused person by the trial court does satisfy the requirement of reasonable restrictions without completely curtailing and abridging the fundamental rights of freedom of movement.

Conceding that he still awaits posting, Rao Anwar explains that he has more than three decades of unblemished service to his credit, adding that he has always performed his duties selflessly, devotedly and to the best of his abilities.

He says that he intends to perform Umra which is subject to removal of his name from the ECL and permission granted by the trial court. Moreover, he needs to travel abroad to deal with his family issues, like engagement of daughters since they have now grown up.

The suspended SSP contends that he is required to travel abroad since he is bound to perform his moral and religious obligation for all such events.

He states that he has been regularly attending trial, the conclusion of which in near future is not possible since even the charge has not yet been framed.

The application also undertakes that Rao Anwar will keep on attending the trial regularly and his movement abroad will never cause any hindrance, delay or impediment in expeditious proceedings of trial or its timely conclusion. He also contends that he will travel abroad as and when required subject to permission of the trial court.

Rao Anwar pleads that mere registration of an FIR or pending criminal trial is not a valid reason for placing his name on the ECL as freedom of movement is a fundamental right and cannot be curtailed or abridged on account of pendency of trial.

There are many high-profile criminal cases, the application highlights, like the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the May 12 carnage, the Ayan Ali case, etc, in which names of accused persons have not been placed on the ECL.

According to the application, registration of the FIR has no nexus with and is extraneous to the objects of the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981.

Rao Anwar says he enjoys tremendous goodwill and reputation among his contemporaries for his act of gallantry in busting criminal gangs, volunteering in operations against hardened criminals, members of banned outfits and militants and restoring peace and tranquillity in his area of responsibility.

But, he adds, on account of his proactive role against crime he has always remained on the hit list of criminals and has faced many assassination attempts.

Intelligence agencies have issued several threat alerts pre-empting fatal attempts on him, he contends in the application.

The application explains that the suspended SSP has been doing all this in the line of duty and without any personal benefit. In recognition of his unprecedented services rendered for the benefit of public at large at the cost of his liberty and security, he has been issued appreciation letters, cash rewards and shields by his department, heads of other law enforcement agencies and the business community.

The application argues that Rao Anwar is entitled for equal protection of law and same treatment which is being meted out to other similarly placed accused persons as envisaged under Article 4 and 25 of the Constitution.