LAHORE: As the passport of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif expires and the government refuses to renew it, the party says it was neither worried about the issue nor discussed it in any recent party meeting as for them ‘it does not exist anymore’.
According to the party insiders, who did not want to be named, the party lost interest in the issue for five reasons. Firstly, the government has done whatever it could to bring back Nawaz Sharif and failed – even the PTI government has stopped mentioning the passport issue now. The government tried to create an issue out of it, squeezed temporary political mileage out of it, wrote to the British government and failed.
The issue was relegated further for the government when interior minister Sheikh Rasheed publicly told a press conference in Lahore that Imran Khan directed him not to issue a fresh passport to Nawaz Sharif, deflected the entire issue on the person Imran Khan. Fearing failure and political cost, even Prime Minister Imran Khan has not spoken on it for many months now. Thus the issue also died down for the government and the party as well.
Secondly, this is more of a personal issue for the former minister and people in the highest hierarchy of the party would not know what is the policy and preference on the subject; only the family knows, especially his sons in the United Kingdom and daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif. For the party’s consumption, it is good enough to know that their leader has no problem in staying in the UK as long as he wants to on three grounds: 18 months legal permission to stay on for medical reasons, dependency factor and investment option if the former two reasons do not work.
The party was told that if the person is having medical treatment, he is allowed to stay in the country up to 18 months after his legal permission. In Nawaz Sharif’s case, who was carrying a diplomatic passport and had a ten years visa, even such permission would not be required. As far as the passport issue is concerned, it is between the citizen (Nawaz Sharif) and his state (Pakistan). For the British government, the only point of concern is legalities at the time of entryto the country. So, all these factors are covered and the party has never sought explanations beyond them.
As far as the dependency factor is concerned, if a person crosses age of 65, the dependency law applies. In the case of Nawaz Sharif, it can also be invoked if the need be. With his age and health, this can also be invoked if need be and Nawaz Sharif can stay on as a dependent of Hassan Nawaz, who owns a well-established business there.
Lastly, there are also options for investment. With a certain amount of investment, anyone can stay there for a certain period of time.
In the last four months, this is the crux of what the party has been briefed on and told to stop worrying about the issue, and it did.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2021