Mai removed from ECL but passport seized
* Mai being forced to change lawyer: Aitzaz Ahsan
* Aurat Foundation director says climbdown ‘clever’ tactic by govt
* Mai’s mother accuses govt of illegal detention
By Zulfiqar Ghuman
ISLAMABAD: Mukhtar Mai’s name has been removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) and she is free to go wherever she wants, Federal Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao told the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“Mukhtar Mai’s name has been removed from the ECL on the directives of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. There are no restrictions on her movement,” the interior minister said. Mai’s lawyer Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan discussed the matter with the prime minister in the House and the prime minister agreed to remove her name from the ECL.
“I told the prime minister that the government itself should escort her around instead of her getting into the hands of people who might exploit this case and malign Pakistan’s image abroad,” Ahsan told Daily Times. Daily Times sources said that Mai’s Pakistani handler took her to the US embassy and she requested the embassy to return her passport without a visa. Sources said that government authorities seized her passport, saying the government would facilitate Mai if she wished to travel abroad.
Later, Mai spoke to HRCP chairperson Asma Jehangir, and told her that the prime minister called her on the phone and assured her that if she cooperated with the government and handed over her passport, her name would be removed from the ECL. “The prime minister told me that he would personally ensure that I would be able to go to the US in a month,” she was quoted as telling Asma.
Earlier in the National Assembly, Ahsan said the government was violating basic human rights by keeping Mai in custody and not allowing her to meet her lawyer. “It is the basic human right of every Pakistani to appoint a lawyer of his/her choice,” he said. “I am not concerned about her name being on the ECL. I am concerned that she is my client and she is not being allowed to meet me,” he said. He said Mai was also being forced to change her lawyer. “She wanted to meet me in Lahore and then in Islamabad. But she was unable to contact me as Nilofar Bakhtiar did not allow her,” Aitzaz said.