ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name has been removed from the exit control list (ECL) and he has finally been issued a green passport by the government, led by his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif.

The former prime minister’s new passport with a 10-year validity was processed in the urgent category. As of now, the passport’s status in the immigration and passports department’s system is “active”.

While a controversy over the supposed renewal of his previous diplomatic (red) passport has been raging on for nearly a year, an interior ministry official told Dawn that the former prime minister chose to apply for an ordinary passport, which has now been issued to him.

On December 30, 2020, then-interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had told a press conference that Nawaz Sharif’s diplomatic passport will be cancelled on February 16, 2021.

Though the minister did not give any details, a senior official of the interior ministry told Dawn that Feb 16 was, in fact, the expiry date of Nawaz Sharif’s diplomatic passport. A red passport with a five-year validity had been issued to the PML-N supreme leader on Feb 18, 2016, and the same document was used for his travel to the United Kingdom.

Even before appointing his cabinet, newly-elected prime minister Shehbaz Sharif had ordered the issuance of a diplomatic passport to his elder brother, to enable him to return to the country,

The newly sworn-in Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah also said last week that a diplomatic passport was Nawaz’s Sharif right and would be issued to him.

“It is unfortunate that a person who has been prime minister thrice is being deprived of national citizenship,” the interior minister had said.

The PML-N supremo was granted an eight-week bail on medical grounds in October 2019, and a month later, he was allowed to travel abroad for treatment for four weeks — but he is still in London.

Former PM Imran Khan had repeatedly lashed out at Nawaz for “proceeding abroad after lying about his health”.

Read: Imran casts doubt on Nawaz’s medical reports

In February this year, Mr Khan admitted that the government made a mistake by allowing PML-N supremo to travel abroad.

Last week, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed a petition asking the court to stop the expected issuance of a diplomatic passport to Nawaz Sharif, stating that it was “based on unreliable material and is, therefore, frivolous”.

In August last year, Nawaz had filed an appeal with the British Immigration Tribunal after the UK Home Department refused to extend his stay in the country on “medical grounds” any further.

Separately, while hearing a petition filed by PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz for the return of her passport so she could to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, a Lahore High Court division bench on Monday directed the interior ministry to furnish the rules of the Exit Control List (ECL).

Earlier, Advocate Ahsan Bhoon appeared on behalf of Ms Nawaz and argued before the bench that the petitioner wanted to perform Umrah in the last days of Ramazan.

A special prosecutor for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), present in the court, told the bench that the name of the petitioner was placed on the ECL following her bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

He said a main petition of the petitioner against the ECL had been pending since 2021.

Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, who headed the bench, observed that the instant petition would be heard along with the main petition on Tuesday (today).

The bench directed an assistant attorney general to submit a reply on behalf of the interior ministry and also furnish the rules for placing someone on the ECL. The bench also directed the NAB prosecutor to submit a written reply to the petitioner.

Ms Nawaz had surrendered her passport before the court when allowed post-arrest bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case on Nov 4, 2019. However, the bench had ordered her to surrender passport to prove bona fide as the NAB feared she could flee the country.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2022

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