The Pakistan government has decided to continue the travel ban on former president Asif Ali Zardari, his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah among other Pakistan Peoples Party leaders, a top minister said.
The decision, which prevents them from flying abroad, was taken during a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday, Dawn news reported.
On December 27, the Cabinet placed Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur on the Exit Control List (ECL) to prevent them from flying abroad after they were named in a Supreme Court-appointed joint investigative team probing fake bank accounts.
The JIT probe, constituted by the apex court on September 5, focused on "32 fake accounts" which were allegedly used to give massive financial benefits to Zardari, Talpur and several others.
However, the Supreme Court on December 31 expressed anger over the government's move placing the names of 172 suspects on the ECL and ordered it to review the decision. The Cabinet then sent the list to a review committee.
The review committee recommended the removal of 20 names from the ECL, including those of the PPP leaders.
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the government to remove the names of PPP Chairman Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Shah from the ECL. It also ordered that the case be forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
However, Prime Minister Khan and his team rejected the recommendations and decided that the names of the top leaders of the PPP would remain on the ECL, the Dawn news reported.
"The federal cabinet has decided not to remove names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah from the ECL," Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters.
He said the names of the PPP leaders would remain on the ECL until a detailed written order of the Supreme Court was received.
"After going through the order, we will decide whether the names of the PPP leaders should be removed from the list or the government should file a review petition against the apex court's decision," Chaudhry said.
The minister said another committee has been constituted to review the travel ban on the 172 suspects. The committee will present its report to the Cabinet in its next meeting.
The names of the 172 suspects were placed on the ECL on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the PPP termed the Cabinet's latest decision as a "dictatorial decision".
"The Cabinet decision has not only exposed the 'ugly' face of Imran Khan but the fact that dictatorship is prevailing in the country which does not even accept the decisions of the Supreme Court," PPP leader Nafisa Shah said.
She called on the apex court to take stern notice of the government's "rigidness" and alleged that the "puppet" government was "using accountability and the ECL as tools for arm-twisting of political opponents".