ISLAMABAD: Former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf may have to face a difficult situation after March, because by then his diplomatic passport will have expired and the government seems to be in no mood to renew it anytime soon.
The former president has been declared a ‘proclaimed offender’ and ‘absconder’ by various courts in at least four high-profile cases, including the treason case, the Benazir Bhutto murder case, Lal Masjid operation case and the matter of judges’ detention.
Sources told Dawn that the last diplomatic passport (number AJ0848364) issued to Mr Musharraf from Dubai in 2013 would expire on March 16, 2018.
Examine: Musharraf’s legacy
Most countries allow entry only to those who hold passports valid for more than six months from the date of entry, even if they have a valid visa.
Consulate in Dubai tells former president his request will be processed only after approval from Islamabad
Mr Musharraf, who mostly resides in Dubai, was allowed to travel to the United Kingdom last week on the condition he produced a return ticket, after the Pakistan consulate told him that it was not possible that his passport would be renewed before his trip to the UK, and that processing his request would require prior approval from Islamabad.
If the government does not renew his passport, the former president may face difficulties when he returns to Dubai from the UK on Nov 29. If the renewal takes any longer, he may not be able to undertake any foreign travel, even if he does have a valid visa for his destination.
Dr Mohammad Amjad, the secretary general of Mr Musharraf’s All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML) who arrived here from Dubai last week, confirmed to Dawn that his party chief faced difficulties in embarking on his visit to the UK because of the below six-month validity of his passport.
He said the Pakistan consulate not only refused to entertain the application for the renewal of Mr Musharraf’s passport, but also declined to affix a validity stamp on it.
Sources say the Pakistan consulate in Dubai has sent a communiqué to the Foreign Office (FO), seeking approval for the renewal of Mr Musharraf’s passport. The FO, they added, had sought the opinion of the Ministry of Interior on the matter.
“It is the domain of the interior ministry,” said FO spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said when contacted. He confirmed that the FO had received a reference from the consulate in Dubai and had sought the opinion of the interior ministry on the matter.
An official of the Directorate General of Passports and Immigration told Dawn that all former presidents had a lifetime entitlement to a diplomatic passport for free.
He said the validity of diplomatic passports had recently been increased from five to 10 years.
Quoting from the diplomatic passport rules outlined in the Passport and Visa Manual 2006, he said: “No authority other than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will, in any circumstances, issue authorisation for diplomatic passports.”
He said that under Paragraph 45-E of the manual, diplomatic passports might be renewed or altered — if necessary — by Pakistani passport-issuing authorities abroad, under intimation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He said a reference must first be made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in case of doubt. Since the rules were very clear, he said there was no need to send a reference for the renewal of Mr Musharraf’s passport to the FO.
Since it is a high-profile political case, the source said the government might drag the issue to pester Musharraf. Under the rules, former presidents, prime ministers, Senate chairmen, speakers of the National Assembly, chief justices, governors, chief ministers, ministers and ministers of state, special assistants to the prime minster and attorney generals were entitled to hold diplomatic passports. Spouses and dependent children of former presidents, prime ministers, Senate chairmen, NA speakers were also entitled to hold diplomatic passports, he added.
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017