PILDAT demands immediate removal of Mr. Cyril Almeida’s name from ECL; calls for investigating unauthorized leaks and resolving underlying issue

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October 13; PILDAT has raised strong objections against the placement of Mr. Cyril Almeida’s name on the Exit Control List. Terming it a reprehensible act on the part of the Government of Pakistan, PILDAT has demanded that Mr. Almeida’s name should be immediately removed from the ECL.

PILDAT believes that Mr. Cyril Almeida has been subjected to an unwarranted and misdirected witch-hunt for running a story which the newspaper maintains it handled ‘in a professional manner and carried it only after verification from multiple sources‘.1 Given that the newspaper also published two rejoinders issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Government’s decision to put Mr. Almeida’s name on the ECL is not just an egregious violation of a citizen’s rights and that of media freedom, but a complete and total lack of responsibility, a misplaced outrage by the Government and its misguided approach to apportioning blame where it is completely undue.

It is also important to note, PILDAT statement added, that contents of the said news report yet again signify a broad problem that besets civil-military relations in Pakistan. As PILDAT had stated in its Report on State of Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan2 there is often a disturbing divergence between civil-military leadership on how to conduct the affairs of the State with regards to our foreign policy (especially vis-à-vis India) and security policy. Although a divergence of opinion is not necessarily something undesirable, the mandate for final decisions on national security, as on other policies, resides with the elected Government.

On the occasion, PILDAT also questioned the apparently arbitrary policy of the Government of Pakistan with regards to the Exit Control List. The Federal Minister for Interior, Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, MNA, had categorically announced in September 2016 a new policy regarding the ECL, stating that people would only be placed on the ECL if they belonged to proscribed organisations, were accused of drug trafficking, or spying against the country, upon the recommendation of defence institutions, intelligence agencies, high courts or the Supreme Court.3 Apparently, none of these quarters have made such a request, with Mr. Cyril Almeida hardly fitting the bill on any of these counts.

PILDAT also stated that the real issue of concern, however, is that a participant at the meeting disclosed in such vivid detail what should have been kept behind closed doors. The development may take away from the atmosphere of trust and official secrecy that are crucial to such meetings and therefore, PILDAT supports an investigation into where the leak emanated from and holding those responsible accountable as a matter of paramount importance. However, the inquiry needs to be conducted where and how the leak has occurred instead of as a coercive tactic for Mr. Almeida to reveal his sources.

References:

1. For details, please see Reaction to Dawn story, Dawn, October 13, 2016, which may be accessed at:
https://www.dawn.com/news/1289527/reaction-to-dawn-story

2. The complete text of the Report may be accessed at:
https://www.pildat.org/Publications/publication/CMR/
StateofCivil-MilitaryRelationsinPakistan-June012015
July312016.pdf

3. For details, please see Nisar announces new ECL policy, launches SMS service for passport, The News, September 16, 2016, which may be accessed at:
https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/8258-nisar-announces-new-ecl-policy-launches-sms-service-for-passports


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