ISLAMABAD: The federal government has requested the UK government for a third time to send back former premier and supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif to serve out his sentence in a Pakistani prison, with the letter this time handed over personally to the British High Commissioner in Islamabad, according to sources.
The letter was handed over to the British diplomat some three weeks after Mr Sharif made a fiery speech at the opposition’s multiparty conference (MPC) through video link from London in which he criticised the military establishment over its alleged role in politics.
Through the letter, the Pakistan government has asked the British authorities to consider cancelling Mr Sharif’s visit visa, which has allowed him to live in London on medical grounds since November.
The letter has cited Britain’s own immigration laws of 1974 under which any person sentenced to imprisonment of more than four years had to be deported to the country of his/her origin.
When contacted, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar confirmed that the government had made three requests to the UK authorities to deport Mr Sharif, with the last request made on Oct 5.
The previous letter, he said, had been dispatched after the cancellation of Mr Sharif’s bail by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) last month.
Mr Akbar said in the latest letter his government had pointed to a possible way out of the issue of “specific deportation” of the former premier. “The ball is now in the court of British government,” he said.
The IHC had on Sept 15 issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Mr Sharif in the Al Azizia reference while hearing three applications filed by him, including the ones about forgoing the requirement of his surrender before the court and exemption from personal appearance.
The former prime minister had left for the UK after the Lahore High Court granted him permission to go abroad for medical treatment. He had submitted an undertaking to the court that he would return within four weeks or as soon as he was declared healthy and fit to travel by doctors.
Mr Sharif criticised the military establishment not just at the MPC but also recently at the Gujranwala rally of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement.
A day after that PML-N rally in Gujranwala, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed a convention of his Tiger Force and declared he would get “even more tough” with the opposition and vowed to make all-out efforts to bring Mr Sharif back and send him behind bars.
“Now I will try my best to bring you back and put you in a common prison, not a VIP one,” he said.
Earlier, the APP news agency reported that British newspaper the Financial Times had partially revealed the content of the letter sent by Mr Akbar to Priti Patel, the UK home secretary.
The letter said Ms Patel “is duty-bound” to deport Mr Sharif, to serve his jail sentence for corruption.
In the letter Mr Akbar wrote that the former prime minister was responsible for pillaging the state. “I trust that you will be supportive of our efforts to bring those responsible for corruption to account.”
The letter to Ms Patel urged the British secretary to use her “extensive powers” to deport Mr Sharif, added the newspaper.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020