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An accused can go abroad, says SC judge

An accused can go abroad, says SC judge

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court judge wondered on Wednesday what terrible harm might come to the state if model Ayyan Ali, caught on money-laundering charges, was allowed to go abroad.

“A person accused of committing some crime can go abroad under the law even for a pleasure trip,” observed Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, adding that so long as she was not proven guilty she could go abroad and in her absence prosecution could record evidence.

The three-judge Supreme Court bench reserved its ruling on a set of appeals moved by the interior ministry as well as the Collector of Customs, Islamabad, against the Sindh High Court judgment of March 7, which called for removing the name of Ms Ali from the Exit Control List.

Ms Ali was caught on March 14, 2014, at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad, while trying to smuggle nearly half a million dollars out of the country.

Advocate Farhat Nawaz Lodhi, representing the customs collector, cited July 31, 2014, agreement signed between the model and her manager Barac Florinel-Eftimica who represents her worldwide interests regarding her work as artist and model and argued that if she was allowed to leave for Dubai her engagements may require her to stay in the UAE for two years. “We have to weigh things to determine whether she will come back or not,” the counsel emphasised.

The bona fide of the accused could be gauged from the fact that instead of pursuing the pending case before the special court by requesting for early hearing, she applied for the release of passport and then fought for removal of her name from the ECL. The model had no stakes in Pakistan except this case, the counsel said.

He cited the recent Supreme Court judgment which allowed retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to leave the country after his name was removed from ECL. He emphasised that placing a name on the ECL was a policy matter.

It was for the federal government to decide whether or not the model was needed in Pakistan, the counsel said.

Defending the accused, Latif Khosa quoted the 1991 Supreme Court judgment which nullified unfettered authority of the government of not disclosing information regarding prohibition placed on a person from leaving the country even if he or she had valid travel documents and stated that this was against the commandments of God who even had given a notice to Satan before punishing him.

Mr Khosa said the government did not apply its mind while placing his client’s name on the ECL.

Ms Ali’s name figures nowhere on the rules governing the exit from Pakistan since she was neither involved in corruption, misuse of power causing loss to the state and economic crime. Justice Faisal Arab observed that smuggling was an economic crime.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2016

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