Ayyan can leave the country, rules Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday discarded the interior ministry’s appeal to keep model Ayyan Ali’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) and upheld the Sindh High Court’s verdict to remove her name from the same.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, who headed the three-member bench that heard the appeal, said it seemed as if the government wanted to keep the model in the country by hook or by crook.

Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, who represented the ministry argued that the model’s name was added to the ECL on a request of the Punjab home department (in the murder case of Customs Officer Ejaz Mehmood), and that is why the SHC should have listened to their arguments as to why the name was added to the list before handing out the verdict.

Ayyan was nominated in a case relating to the customs officer’s murder, who was killed in 2015 while he was allegedly investigating the money laundering case involving the model.

At this, the bench asked the government lawyer how many murder suspects’ names had been put on the ECL previously.

On the face of it, said Justice Nisar, the referee judge gave the right verdict in this case.

The chief justice regretted that a long time had passed since a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against Ayyan in June 2015, but investigation into the case was still not completed.

The bench subsequently ordered the removal of the model’s name from ECL while upholding the SHC verdict.

The interior ministry had challenged the SHC decision to strike Ayyan’s name off the ECL in Supreme Court on Saturday.

In a petition received by the SC, the interior ministry maintained that the model’s name was put on the list on Punjab’s request and thus it could not be removed by the SHC.

Earlier on Jan 19, the SHC ordered authorities to strike Ayyan’s name off ECL but later suspended its order for 10 days on the request of the federal government, which sought time to challenge the high court’s judgment in the SC.

Justice Phulpoto was appointed as a referee judge by SHC Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah last month to decide Ayyan’s petition after one of the judges on a division bench approved the model’s plea, while the other rejected it.

The Ayyan saga

The interior ministry on a court directive had removed her name from the ECL, but it was again included in the list after a few hours.

The model later filed a contempt of court application against the federal government for not allowing her to travel abroad despite the court’s directive to strike her name off ECL.

The model had approached the court initially in Dec 2015 requesting the removal of her name from the exit control list. Her counsel had maintained that having her name on the ECL was illegal as authorities had returned her passport.

During a hearing of her case last year, the model said she was required to travel abroad for professional assignments and medical treatment, and since she had been released from jail on bail, her name should be struck off the ECL.

She said the authorities’ decision to disallow her from travelling abroad was a violation of her fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 18 of the Constitution.

A customs court in Nov 2015 indicted Ayyan for attempting to smuggle more than half a million dollars in cash out of the country, to which she has pleaded not guilty.

The model was arrested on March 14, 2015, on charges of money laundering after customs officials recovered $506,000 from her luggage at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport before she could reportedly board a flight to Dubai.

She was granted bail in July last year after spending around four months in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail — and after her judicial remand was extended at least 16 times.

The case against the model took a political turn when the airport entry pass of the personal assistant to a former president was cancelled for allegedly trying to facilitate Ayyan’s suspected attempt to smuggle money.

Later in June 2015, a customs official who was allegedly investigating the money laundering case involving the model was shot dead.

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