LONDON: A British parliamentary team has rejected a lobby petition demanding a parliamentary debate on the issue of deportation of former Pakistani finance minister Ishaq Dar, describing its contents as “libellous”.

The petition started by an activist from the UK about a month ago has so far gathered around 82,000 signatures.

Under the UK parliamentary system, an individual or a group can highlight an issue of public importance through a lobby petition and get signatures to gather support for the cause. Once the petition gets over 100,000 signatures, the issue involved is debated in the House of Commons, the lower house of British parliament.

Describes contents of petition started by an activist from Britain about a month ago as ‘libellous’

All such petitions are monitored by a team from the UK parliament for its content and behaviour of the groups and individuals launching and supporting it. The team can reject any petition if it finds that the information contained in the petition is libellous, false or defamatory at any stage during the process. In such a situation, the team informs all those who have signed the petition, explaining them the reason of its decision.

The team sent a similar email to more than 80,000 signatories of the petition demanding a debate on the issue of Ishaq Dar.

“We rejected the petition you supported — “Deport absconder Pakistan’s Ex-Finance Minister Ishaq Dar back to Pakistan,” said an email written by the team on Friday.

“It included confidential, libellous, false or defamatory information, or a reference to a case which is active in the UK courts,” it added.

“In any case, we can’t accept your petition because we’re not sure exactly what you’d like the UK Government or Parliament to do,” it further said.

“We think you would like the UK Government to extradite Ishaq Dar to Pakistan. The UK has no formal extradition treaty with Pakistan. Section 194 of the Extradition Act 2003 does allow special extradition arrangements in exceptional circumstances. However, under current law, an extradition process is initiated at the request of the government of the country in which the individual has been convicted of a crime. It would therefore be the Pakistani Gover­nment’s responsibility to initiate such proceedings,” it added.

The team also highlighted the standards or the petition and said that all the petitions must call for a specific action from the UK government or the House of Commons and must be about something that the government or the House of Commons is responsible for. The team said it rejected petitions that didn’t meet the rules. “If we reject your petition, we’ll tell you why. If we can, we’ll suggest other ways you could raise your issue,” it added.

“We publish the text of petitions that we reject, as long as they’re not: defamatory, libellous or illegal in another way; about a case that is active in the UK courts or about something that a court has issued an injunction over,” it concluded.

According to media reports, the petitions committee said it reviewed the online petition after getting 10,000 signatures for its consideration but rejected it on technical and legal grounds.

Former finance minister Dar presently resides in the UK without a passport after his diplomatic passport was cancelled.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018