Pakistan authorities have removed the names of over 5,000 individuals from the travel blacklist after the government took note of the problems faced by citizens whose names have been blacklisted for a long time, according to a media report on Sunday.
Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, in a meeting held recently, directed the review committee of the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports to meet biannually to review cases of blacklisted individuals. The meeting was held after a gap of almost four years. The previous meeting was held in December 2016.
Taking note of problems faced by the blacklisted citizens, the minister directed the Immigration and Passports director general to immediately convene a meeting of the periodical review committee to consider cases on merit and remove names from the blacklist after the due process, according to a report in the Dawn newspaper.
The committee reviewed the names of citizens falling in category B of the blacklist and removed the names of 5,807 individuals out of a list of 42,725 people. The committee will consider the rest of the cases in its forthcoming periodic review, the report said.
There are two main blacklist categories – Category ‘A’ includes names of those involved in serious crimes like terrorism, money laundering and anti-state activities, whereas the ‘B’ category mainly has names of deportees who had either travelled abroad on forged documents or were found involved in crime in the host country, it said.
Senate endorses report on travel blacklist
A report by the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which recommended that a little-known blacklist of persons forbidden from travelling abroad be abolished, was approved by the Senate following a debate just last year. Describing the blacklist as being without constitutional and legal backing, the committee had recommended abolishing it along with all such lists that impinge upon the fundamental rights of citizens.
Demanding an immediate halt to the placement of any new names on the list, the committee had recommended that the Ministry of Interior submit a compliance report within 10 days. A point of order had been raised in the house in December last year regarding the procedure for putting names in the said blacklist and its legal standing. The point of order had been referred by the Senate chairman to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for consideration.
The committee considered the matter in several meetings and had also invited the ministries of interior and human rights for their input on the subject. PPP Senator Sherry Rehman stated that as per a minister who did wish to be named, there was another list aside from the blacklist through which people were stopped from travelling, reported Dawn.
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The violation of fundamental human rights
She said such curbs on freedom of travel went against fundamental human rights and people were illegally being stopped from travelling. Rehman noted that aside from the official Exit Control List (ECL), there were two other lists being maintained under which people were being barred from foreign travel. “We did not see this [practice] even during the years of dictatorship,” Rehman remarked.
She alleged that these lists were being drawn up “late at night” and even politicians were being stopped at airports on their basis. “How are there three separate lists to stop people from traveling?” the senator asked.
The report had quoted the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general as saying that the agency only implemented the blacklist through an automated system, which did not allow it access to information regarding why a person was added to the list.
It mentioned Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari as stating that such lists were not acceptable in a democracy as they impinged upon fundamental rights. It added that the authorities concerned also recognised that the blacklist and the likes of it had no legal value and that the ECL was the only valid list in this regard.