WASHINGTON DC, July 22, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Editor South Asia Tribune placed on Exit Control List

ECL Removed from NAB Web Site

Musharraf Asks US to Silence His US-based Critics

By M T Butt

ISLAMABAD, July 22: The Editor of the South Asia Tribune, Shaheen Sehbai, the Washington-based journalist and critic of Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf, has been placed by the Government of Pakistan on the infamous Exit Control List (ECL), which bans its citizens to leave the country.

The move comes as Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have made an informal request to the US authorities to “contain” some of the US-based Pakistani writers and journalists who criticize the Musharraf Government “because they are harming Pakistani efforts to fight the US war on terror."

The ECL was up-dated on the web site of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on July 14, 2005 and interestingly mentioned the names of several sitting ministers of the Musharraf cabinet, including the Interior Minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao himself, who is basically incharge of maintaining and updating the ECL.

When newspapers broke the story of latest ECL nominees, Aftab Sherpao was so angry he ordered the NAB to remove the entire list from its web site and that was quickly done. By the evening of July 20, the ECL was no longer available to the public, as in the past.

In the developments on the other track, some of those critics Musharraf wants contained in the US include Washington-based scholar-diplomat Husain Haqqani (left), a former police officer and author of a recent book Boston-based Hassan Abbas (right), and a Wisconsin University Professor Dr. Tarique Niazi, who writes scathing articles in the South Asia Tribune.

A California-based businessman and intellectual Khawaja Ashraf (left), some American scholars including well-known Asia expert Steve Cohen (right) and probably Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute are also on the hit list.

 

The name of Shaheen Sehbai (left) was put on the ECL sometime in the recent past but it appeared in the ECL on the web site of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) when it was up-dated on July 14, 2005. Click to view ECL, saved before it was removed by NAB

It provides the name and Pakistan and US addresses of the SAT Editor as well as his passport number and places him in the company of some important politicians including even some current ministers of the Musharraf cabinet.

Among those on the ECL available on the web site of NAB are Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao, Kashmir Affairs Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat, PPPP Leader Makhdoom Amin Faheem, Government PML-Q leader Nasrullah Dareshak and many others in and out of the Government.

Of course the most prominent on the ECL are Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Shahbaz Sharif, MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar, Rape Victim Mukhtaran Mai and even Public Accounts Committee Chairman Malik Allahyar of PML-Q and former NWFP Chief Minister Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi who recently traveled to a number of European countries as a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

Interestingly some of those who have left this world are still not allowed to leave Pakistan, according to the NAB list. These unfortunate ones include Mian Mohammed Sharif, father of Nawaz Sharif, former minister Abdus Sattar Lalika and top terrorist Riaz Basra. A sick Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Asif Zardari’s father Hakim Ali Zardari also remain on the list.

Political observers, however, say the ECL has been turned into a joke by the military Government as it is being used totally and exclusively for persecution and harassment of political opponents of the regime while those who support the army are allowed to travel even though their names stay on the ECL.

The entire Sharif family was on ECL but was forced out of the country, these observers point out. Asif Zardari was permitted to leave without his name being struck off, at least from the NAB list on the web site. Mukhtaran Mai was permitted to leave the country under US and Western pressure but her name is still there.

Newspaper Dawn contacted Aftab Khan Sherpao, the Interior Minister under whose jurisdiction the ECL is compiled and updated, to seek an explanation as to how he himself and a fellow Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat were on the list. The interior minister responded: “Our names are not on the ECL.” Asked if he would direct the authorities to make corrections in the list, the minister replied in affirmative.

But Dawn quoted a NAB official saying that the Interior Minister’s name was put on the web site as cases were pending against him in courts. The official, requesting anonymity, said the interior minister’s name would be taken off only on the directives of a court of law.

Asked why the Kashmir affairs minister’s name was on ECL, the official said perhaps the concerned officials had not updated the list as court cases against the minister had been withdrawn.

About Mukhtaran Mai still featuring on the NAB web site, the official said the list was maintained by the interior ministry and the government might have put her name on ECL. The official said NAB got the names of only those people on ECL who had any corruption cases pending against them.

Asked if the NAB had the legal power to place a person’s name on ECL or publish it on its web site, NAB spokesperson Nasir Jamal said there must be some provision but he would have to check the exact position with the legal department on Wednesday.

As this ECL joke continues, a more sinister move by the Musharraf Government is getting more attention in Washington. According to sources the ISI and Military Intelligence (MI) have given several names to the US intelligence agencies and other authorities to “contain” some of the critics of the Musharraf Government who are based on US as they are “harming Pakistani efforts to fight the war on terror by attacking General Musharraf.”

The name of South Asia Tribune Editor Shaheen Sehbai also figures prominently on this list of US-based trouble-makers.

Sources in Islamabad said by asking the US authorities to “contain” these writers and intellectuals, the Pakistan Army wishes that some of these Pakistanis should be handed over to Islamabad while the US citizens be asked by the Washington Establishment to tone down their attacks on General Musharraf in the name of serving US National Security interests.

The US reaction to this request is not yet known but experts say it would be wishful thinking on the part of the Pakistani Generals to believe that any US Government would link “political dissent” and “criticism of General Musharraf” to the war on terror and forcibly silence or expatriate these critics.

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