Even while a petition on Memogate filed by Pakistan Muslim League chief Nawaz Sharif is being heard, former minister Azam Swati filed another in the Supreme Court on Thursday – asking for President Asif Ali Zardari to be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).
Swati, who has recently been inducted into the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) after quitting his senate seat and membership of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), cited several reasons in his petition to justify his demand, stating that the president should not be allowed to leave the country without the permission of the court.
The petition refers specifically to a recent report in US newspaper The New York Times which quotes some Pakistani and Western officials as saying the president’s return to Pakistan from Dubai could be just a ‘cameo appearance’ before Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary on December 27. It adds that his presence in Pakistan in the circumstances is vital. The petition also cites the newspaper mentioning President Zardari “would probably leave for a long, perhaps permanent convalescence in London or Dubai”.
Swati noted in the plea that in light of the president’s recent health issues, it was possible that he would leave the country again. In this connection, the petition states that if needed, “a team of medical specialists can be called into Pakistan,” using the expenses allotted for his foreign tours in 2012 – rather than him leaving the country on health grounds again.
He added that the president had remained outside the country for most of his tenure, and in light of the gravity of the memo scandal and the welfare of the state, his presence was ‘very important’.
Hitting PPP directly
Unlike the Nawaz petition, Swati’s petition has directly held the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government responsible. Swati alleged that the government was complying with every dictate of the US government and military and offered them the option of intervention. He prayed the court to constitute a commission consisting of at least three people of ‘high repute and integrity’ to investigate.
The respondents in the petition were President Zardari, former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, Secretary General to President Salman Farooqui, Mansoor Ijaz, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director-General ISI Lt Gen Shuja Pasha.
Swati also asked the Supreme Court to call for the records of all cell phone calls, SMSs and BBMs not only of Haqqani but of all officials allegedly involved in Memogate, including Farooqui and Babar.
He additionally requested that Ijaz be summoned to assist the court and that the court demand forensic examination of computers, cell phones and BBM records used from May 1 to May 20, 2011.
Citing high treason
While raising questions as to the PPP’s direct involvement in the case, PTI’s Swati also asked the court, “Is it not against law, and prejudicial to the security of Pakistan for an ambassador, head of the state and his staff members to conspire against the ISI and the Army of Pakistan?”, referring to a violation of article 5 of the constitution.
The former minister also proposed a restriction on the movement of Americans and all diplomats within diplomatic areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.
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