Pakistan News

Senate panel wants ‘flawed, politically motivated’ ECL policy reformed

ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Monday called for reformation of the Exit Control List (ECL) policy, observing that in its existing form, the blueprint is replete with flaws.

The Senate standing committee on interior, led by Senator Rehman Malik, was briefed by Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan on the ECL policy. Mr Khan, a retired major, informed the committee that 4,987 names had been struck off the ECL over the past three years with 387 in the last month alone. He said that 3,612 individuals were still on the list however.

Senator Malik said that suspects and convicts must be treated differently. The committee also urged that any person whose name was being placed on the ECL should be given a prior notice so that they could have a chance to defend themselves. Senator Malik argued that individuals must be granted a right of representation and given 10 days to defend themselves.

He said the names of all those on the ECL for more than three years, with no decision from the court should be immediately removed from the list.

PTA chairman briefs senators on progress made so far to safeguard the Cyber Borders Security Control System

“It is time to revisit the rules, the criteria and the standard operating procedures for placing people on the ECL. The individual in question must be informed within seven days, and his or her fundamental right to appeal to the courts must be extended,” he said.

The committee chairman said that those undergoing preliminary investigations should not be placed on the ECL, neither should it be done on a notice from law enforcement agencies. He said an under trial individual should be placed on the list on a court order while law enforcement agencies must also require a court order to place the name of an individual on the list.

He said that the ECL was being used as a tool to punish people even before there had been a fair trial. Placing the names of individuals on the ECL gave them a bad name, and in the eyes of the public, many of them were considered hardcore criminals even before being convicted, he added.

Senator Malik said the Constitution ensured that every citizen be extended fundamental rights including the freedom of movement. Restricting anyone’s movement without a conviction over a serious crime was a violation of the Constitution, he argued.

He said the “competent authority” under the ECL law is the federal government — and the Supreme Court of Pakistan has passed a verdict that says the federal government means “the whole cabinet”. He said the words “competent authority” be replaced with “secretary interior”.

The Senator said the committee’s main concern was to make the ECL policy transparent and clear on how individuals are placed on it. He said that influential people usually managed to get their names removed from the list, and it was the poor who suffered mostly, he said.

He also asked the interior ministry about law and procedure under which any investigative agency could get a person’s name placed on the ECL.

The interior secretary said that “referred cases” from the agencies were reviewed by a committee and then passed on to the federal cabinet for a final decision.

Senator Kulsoom Parveen of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said that the names added to the ECL were usually politically motivated. Her fellow party member, Senator Javed Abbasi, agreed and said that the ECL law must be revised.

The committee was also briefed by the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) about the progress made so far to safeguard the Cyber Borders Security Control System — a matter of great national interest.

He said that they had been raising fund to buy the equipment needed for cyber protection, adding that arrangements had already been made to furnish $2.3m.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2018

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