Journalist’s name put on ECL as he was planning to leave country; Pakistan concerned at withdrawal of money laundering case against Altaf; E-Passport System for overseas Pakistanis inaugurated
Islamabad—Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar on Thursday said that enemies of Pakistan benefited off Cyril Almeida’s “baseless” news report as it aided their attempts of preparing a “charge sheet” against Pakistan to malign her name on international platforms.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday the minister said that the decision to put Cyril’s name on ECL was taken during a high-level security meeting. “It was decided that this was an attempt to hit our security paradigm in reference to a sensitive security meeting. There should be an investigation into the incident,” he said.
Nisar said that India advantaged off the news story to further its anti-Pakistan propaganda in the world.
He, talking about a news report published in an English daily last week that claimed of a confrontation between civil and military leadership, said it was pertinent that the “whistle-blower” must be identified.
Two days after Cyril Almeida’s name was put on Exit Control List, Chaudhry Nisar said the senior journalist was put on the no-fly list as he was planning to leave the country while an inquiry had been ordered to investigate his news story.
Nisar said that the issue grew only because the journalist was adamant about what he had reported and stood by the story even when all the stakeholders informed him about their denial.
A committee has been formed to probe the report and the investigation would complete within three to four days, he announced.
While answering a question about Almeida s addition in ECL, the federal minister said that at around 05:00pm he got to know that the journalist was set to fly to Dubai at 09:00pm. When a meeting earlier that day decided to hold an inquiry of the report, it was pertinent that the central character of the issue, the journalist be stopped from leaving, he said.
However, the journalist was a free man in the country and could exercise all his rights as the restriction was until the probe completed, he cleared. He further said that name of the author would not have been on the ECL if he was not to fly abroad before completion of the inquiry.
The country’s security czar lamented that the narrative of Pakistan enemies regarding the non-state actors was published in the article “despite all the participants of the meeting denied any such happenings”.
“When the journalist himself admitted in his report that all the [civilian] participants of the meeting denied the happenings how come the story was still published,” he questioned.
Claiming the news story was inaccurate, the minister said whoever leaked the information should be held accountable. “The journalist’s name was only put on ECL for inquiry and I am sure he won’t face any issues.”
I agree with the APNS that the issue should have ended with the publication of government’s rebuttal but the journalist again tweeted and said “I stand by each word of my story”.
“The inquiry will end in three to four days and then everyone will be allowed to travel freely,” he said.
“Had we not put the central character [Almeida] on the ECL, we would had been blamed for letting him go,” he said, adding that the action had been taken as the journalist had booked a plane ticket and was going to travel abroad.
Referring, to the story, the interior minister said, “An attempt has been made to adversely impact a critical national security paradigm, so there should be an inquiry… Indian media used the report, saying that publication of the story verifies the Indian narrative of Pakistani dealings with non-state actors.”
Nisar alleged that the news was inaccurate. He questioned, “Who leaked this inaccurate news? It was published at the behest of someone, and that will be uncovered… they will be brought to justice. But how can that person be brought to justice, if we allow the journalist to leave the country?” he asked.
“We had no other option but to put his name on the ECL as he was travelling abroad the next day.”
Meawhile, talking about the withdrawal of money laundering case the interior minister said Pakistan was concerned at the London Metropolitan Police’s withdrawal of a money laundering case against the founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and other party leaders.
According to Scotland Yard, the case against Altaf Hussain, Mohammad Anwar and Sarfraz Merchant was withdrawn on the grounds that after examining all the evidence it was accepted that there is insufficient evidence to prove that the money seized was the proceeds of crime or was intended for use in unlawful conduct.
But, at a press conference on Thursday evening shortly before the news was broken, the interior minister said that relations between Pakistan and Britain were “stuck at a dead-end” due to the issue.
Nisar said he had spoken in detail with the UK High Commissioner, who officially informed him of the news.
“I expressed concern on the news. I will express further concern on it once that news goes public,” he said.
Nisar said that all cases – money laundering, the murder case, and incitement to violence – were discussed with the British High Commissioner.
“I told him that Britain and Pakistan’s relations are very good. But why are we, with regards to such a person, stuck at a backstreet or a dead-end? We need to get out of this,” he added.
“The entire Pakistani nation is following this case and how British law, which the whole world has confidence in, is handling it,” he said.
Expressing his concern over the developments, Nisar mentioned that some documents were also recovered from MQM founder’s house during the raids by the London Police.
A ‘shopping list’ of weapons and their prices was also recovered from the MQM founder’s London residence, he said. “It is the London police that provided this evidence,” he said.
“This is not just a legal issue. The entire Pakistani nation is following this case,” he added.
Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali announced the launch of E-Passport System for overseas Pakistanis.
The Interior Minister said the overseas Pakistanis will now be able to get their passports renewed at their residences abroad.
The Interior Minister said e-service will be introduced in Pakistan within six months, and it will be ensured across the country in the next two years. The e-service will help check frauds in issuance of passports besides easy renewal of passports.
The Interior Minister announced that an online system of issuance of passports has been initiated which the ministry was hopeful would solve different issues faced by the people.
Issuance of the electronically equipped passports would start in June next year, he announced. Nisar said that all passports should be issued for as many as ten years as it lessens burden on the system over renewal and consolidates the resources.
E-passports would earn Pakistani system respect abroad as suspicion over green passports would no longer be the case, he asserted.
The minister said that customers would be able to renew their passports without hassle at their homes using the online system. Referring to the issuance of E-passports, the federal minister was concerned that the newspapers would give coverage to Almeida’s case and sideline the matter that should be reported.
Nisar said that a major crackdown against fake identity cards was underway.