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Thursday Dec 31 2020
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What happens when Nawaz Sharif’s passport is cancelled?

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Photo: Geo.tv/ file
  • Nawaz Sharif's passport will be cancelled on Feb 16, Sheikh Rasheed announced a day earlier
  • Fate of former PM's London stay hangs in the balance
  • PM Imran Khan expected to take final decision on cancellation of Nawaz passport

LONDON: The Pakistan government has announced that it will cancel former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s passport in a month-and-a-half on February 16 when his current passport expires – indicating that Nawaz's passport will not be renewed.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said: We have decided to cancel Nawaz Sharif's passport on February 16.

Adviser to Prime Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said Nawaz's stay in London will become illegal after his passport expires. The only option for the PML-N supremo, after his passport expires, would be to come back to Pakistan and appear in court to face the cases against him, Awan said.

While several ministers have made statements, it’s understood that Prime Minister Imran Khan will make a final decision on this matter in a few days and the opinion of Shahzad Akbar, PM’s advisor on accountability is likely to be taken because of his background in law.

Read more about the Pakistan government's decision to cancel Nawaz Sharif's passport

What happens to Nawaz Sharif’s stay in London if passport is cancelled?

According to a leading London immigration law firm, there are several options for the former premier to continue living in London even when his passport has expired, cancelled or revoked by the Pakistan government.

Speaking to Geo, Hateem Ali, head of immigration at the leading London law firm GSC Solicitors LLP, said former PM Nawaz Sharif can continue staying in London when and if his passport is cancelled – without claiming asylum.

The UK Home Office in any event allows those on medical visas normally up to 18 months on the grounds that he is receiving treatment in the UK, he said.

Ali said that Nawaz can “potentially extend this even further depending on the nature of the treatment and with the current global pandemic the UK immigration authorities can also take this into consideration and grant further extensions of stay if necessary”.

The immigration law expert said: Mr Sharif could claim asylum potentially if he wants to, although it is unlikely that he would do so. He has the ability to claim statelessness (assuming he has no other nationality) if his citizenship has been revoked and he is left with no other nationality. 

Read more: NAB requests cancellation of Nawaz Sharif’s passport, CNIC

The Pakistan government, however, may simply refuse to renew Nawaz's passport rather than revoke his citizenship, Ali explained, adding that in this type of situation, it would be for Nawaz to prove to the Home Office that his citizenship has effectively been revoked.

He said another option for Nawaz is to apply for formal residence - from within the UK - in a new visa category either as an investor or any other business/employment option. 

When you make such an application there is usually a check if there are any other criminal cases anywhere in the world, he said. This may create issues for Nawaz, but the UK authorities can use their discretion in such situations and generally, as long as Nawaz has a clean record in the UK, there are several options for him. 

The UK has not entered into a formal extradition treaty with Pakistan so in terms of any potential extradition it will come down to the political will of those involved, the legal expert said.

Read more: IHC defers decision to declare Nawaz Sharif proclaimed offender

Immigration barrister Rashid Ahmed told Geo News that it depends what valid identity documents Nawaz has once his visa is cancelled.

“I am not sure what other identity papers Nawaz Sharif has as it’s a personal and private matter. If Nawaz Sharif cannot prove his identity with a valid identity document then it may make it difficult to extend his visa in the UK but it does not exclude him as he can rely on exceptional circumstances on other means of other identities such as birth certificate and identity card," Ahmed said.

He said he doesn't see any problem for Nawaz since the former PM is in UK for medical treatment and as long as doctors can confirm to the Home Office that he’s getting it, he will have a right to stay on exceptional grounds.

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. The Pakistan government maintains that Nawaz was permitted on the condition he would share details of his treatment, which he did not do.