ISLAMABAD: In a clear indication that the government is in no mood to renew the diplomatic passport of Nawaz Sharif that is close to expiry date, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Wednesday said the former prime minister’s passport would be cancelled on Feb 16 next year.
He was talking to reporters during his second visit to the Capital Development Authority. The minister, who has been saying for many days that he is yet to check when Mr Sharif’s passport is set to expire, was asked who was next in line after the arrest of PML-N parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Khawaja Asif.
He replied that it was not something known, but said: “Let me give you a piece of news. We will cancel Nawaz Sharif’s passport on Feb 16.”
Though the minister did not give any detail, a senior official of the interior ministry told Dawn that Feb 16 was in fact the expiry date of Nawaz Sharif’s diplomatic passport. He said a red passport bearing number BV5128363 with five-year validity had been issued to the PML-N supreme leader on Feb 18, 2016. He said this was the only valid travel document held by Mr Sharif and its expiry on Feb 16, 2021 would render him stateless.
Son says former premier is legally represented in UK and will consult lawyers regarding next steps
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 attorneys general are entitled to hold diplomatic passports, but the official said Mr Sharif’s case was different because he was an absconder.
Meanwhile, speaking to Dawn in London about the development, Hussain Nawaz, son of the former prime minister, said: “This is not at all shocking. We had no hope of any goodwill from them [the government]. The way they arrested Khawaja Asif and their continued custody of Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz is evidence of their intentions.”
He said Nawaz Sharif was legally represented in the UK and would consult his lawyers regarding the next steps.
Nawaz Sharif has been living in London since November last year after he was allowed to leave the country for medical treatment.
Earlier this month, the PML-N supremo was declared a proclaimed offender in two cases — Avenfield properties and Al-Azizia — by the Islamabad High Court after he failed to appear before the court.
The same day, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar had said the UK authorities had been asked to deport the convicted former prime minister from their country. He said Pakistan had written a letter to the United Kingdom, asking it to cancel the visa of Nawaz Sharif which was issued for medical treatment after taking an undertaking.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had in October said he would contact British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, if needed, to discuss Mr Sharif’s deportation.
In Nawaz Sharif’s case, the government is hoping to persuade the UK authorities to bring about a “forced removal”, sometimes called “administrative removal” — a scenario in which the Home Office enforces individuals’ removal from the UK if they don’t have leave to remain (stay).
A legal expert familiar with the British law said the UK had a policy on stateless individuals who were normally allowed to continue to stay in the country. He said in a case involving a high-profile political personality like Nawaz Sharif, there were bright chances of his stay being extended.
The expert said one could apply to stay in the UK as a stateless person if he/she was not recognised as a citizen of any country, was unable to live permanently in any other country and was currently in Britain. He said that those who could not return to another country because of fear of persecution there were required to claim asylum first.
An IHC bench had on Sept 15 issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif after he failed to appear before the court during the hearing of his appeals against conviction in Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases. The bench later started the process of declaring the PML-N supreme leader an absconder and ordered the authorities concerned to publish advertisements — or proclamations — in London-based newspapers, summoning Mr Sharif on Nov 24.
The IHC had remarked that if Nawaz Sharif did not appear before it within 30 days after the publication of advertisements, he would be declared an absconder. The court had also ordered the authorities to paste the notice outside his London and Lahore residences.
Atika Rehman also contributed to this story from London
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2020