ISLAMABAD: The governments of Pakistan and the United Kingdom have agreed for cooperation in the fields of justice and accountability under which efforts would be made for repatriation of illicit finances and recovery of stolen assets, besides putting a check on money-laundering. The UK government has also expressed willingness to revive the treaty for extradition of prisoners.

Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem announced this during a joint press conference with British Home Secretary Sajid Javid at the PM Office on Monday. Dr Naseem was accompanied by Minister of State for Interior Shaharyar Afridi and Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar.

Dr Naseem said the declaration titled ‘UK-Pakistan Justice and Accountability Partnership’ would track corruption. He said both sides also deliberated on formation of a joint fund on civil recovery of stolen assets, and appointment of a prosecution service at the British High Commission. He said it was agreed to ensure capacity-building of Pakistani law enforcement officials with the UK’s assistance.

Answering a question about Avenfield apartments linked to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Dr Naseem said no individual cases or any specific matter was discussed.

Both countries willing to revive treaty for extradition of prisoners

When a reporter asked whether the government with this arrangement would bring former finance minister Ishaq Dar or Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s founder Altaf Hussain back to the country, he was told that this agreement was not for individuals.

According to the law minister, under this mutual partnership both countries would work to counter money laundering, corruption and other crimes.

He said for the justice and accountability partnership Pakistan had named Mr Akbar as its envoy while the British side would be represented by the head of its National Crime Agency.

The law minister said the two sides had also discussed the bilateral prisoner transfer that was on halt for the last several years.

The agreement for transfer of prisoners was signed between Pakistan and Britain on Aug 24, 2007 and had come into force on Aug 19, 2008. The transfer of prisoners agreement facilitates the two countries to exchange prisoners to enable them to serve their remaining terms in their respective countries and that too after the consent of the prisoners. However, it was suspended for being misused by Pakistani authorities.

In 2010 three convicts, sentenced to long terms by British courts on drug and murder charges, were freed prematurely due to the collusion of Pakistani officials concerned.

However, the revival of the treaty would not help bring absconders and wanted criminals since the agreement is for transfer of only prisoners.

Speaking on the occasion, the British secretary said the UK would ensure that no person could escape accountability. He, however, clarified that the initiative would be broad-based and was not meant to target individual cases only.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2018