–Akbar says accountability watchdog can still recommend placing names of PPP chief, Sindh CM on ECL
–PM’s media adviser says no new tax will be introduced in mini-budget on Jan 23
–Govt appoints new head of PTA, BISP secretary; approves Rs750m supplementary grant for NAB
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and his federal cabinet decided on Thursday to remove the names of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the Exit Control List (ECL).
Addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting, PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said although the names of the two PPP leaders were removed from the no-fly list, the federal cabinet refused to excise them from the joint investigation team’s (JIT) report on the fake accounts case.
The cabinet made the call after the Supreme Court issued an order to the government on Wednesday to remove the two names from the ECL and review the cabinet’s decision to place the names of more than 170 suspects in the fake bank accounts case on its travel restrictions list.
The top court’s order came in relation to a suo motu case concerning the delays surrounding a 2015 FIA probe into the money laundering of billions of rupees through fake bank accounts.
Earlier, the SC-formed JIT had recommended the placement of 172 people on the no-fly list.
Several bigwigs, including former president Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, former president of Summit Bank Hussain Lawai and Omni Group’s Anwar Majeed, have all been nominated in the case. Property tycoon Malik Riaz and his son-in-law Zain have also been included in the probe.
In its detailed verdict after reviewing the reports, the apex court had ordered that the names of Bilawal and Murad Shah be removed from both the ECL and the JIT’s report.
The court had further ordered that the case be forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and directed the anti-corruption watchdog to wrap up its investigation within two months.
During Thursday’s cabinet meeting, PM Imran Khan directed the Interior Ministry to remove the names of Bilawal and Shah from the ECL with immediate effect.
Citing some confusions about the apex court’s detailed verdict, Akbar said as per the top court’s orders, the accountability watchdog can still recommend the placement of the names of Bilawal and Shah again on the ECL “if it deems it warranted”.
Akbar further noted that the court’s order had directed the JIT to continue supporting NAB, and that the watchdog should file a reference without waiting for the apex court’s orders [in case it finds sufficient legal grounds to do so]. The special assistant also added that the references will be filed in the accountability courts of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The new chief justice will appoint a monitoring judge to the case, Akbar added.
ECONOMIC REFORMS PACKAGE:
Addressing the press, PM’s Special Assistant on Media Iftikhar Durrani rejected the impression that the government was going to launch a mini-budget on Jan 23. He also categorically denied reports that the government may increase the ratio of sales tax on Jan 23.
“No new tax is going to be introduced,” he said, adding that the economic reforms package is aimed at enhancing ease of doing business and to provide some incentives to the business community.
Durrani also said that the cabinet had also approved the placement of the development and non-development budget of the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) under the Ministry of Interior.
The cabinet further approved the auction of 20 ships of the Ministry for National Food Security. The federal cabinet also approved the appointment of Maj Gen (r) Amir Azeem as Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman, and the appointment of Ali Raza, a grade-21 officer, as Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme (BISP) secretary.
The cabinet also approved a supplementary grant of Rs750 million for the National Accountability Bureau NAB).
At the onset of the meeting, the prime minister asked two cabinet members, Ali Zaidi and Fawad Chaudhry, to leave the meeting as the Election Commission of Pakistan has suspended their membership of the National Assembly after they, along with 70 other MNAs, failed to submit details of their assets to the commission in time.