Tuesday Feb 16, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's passport will expire today (Tuesday) with Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed saying that the document cannot be renewed since the PML-N supremo's name is on the no-fly list.
"If Nawaz Sharif wants to return to Pakistan, he will not be stopped," said Sheikh Rasheed during a news conference. "However, a person whose name is on the Exit-Control List (ECL) can neither be issued a new passport nor can his existing one be renewed."
The interior minister said that if the former prime minister wanted to return to the country, the government can issue him a permission within 72 hours.
He said that Sharif's passport will expired at midnight tonight, criticising the former prime minister for taking "unfair advantage" of the high court's decision to let him seek medical treatment abroad.
Rasheed said that Sharif had 'deceived' everyone by claiming that he needed to go abroad for medical treatment but had not sought it.
The Awami Muslim League chief said that all he could do about the entire matter is to issue the PML-N leader travel documents. "That is all I can do," he said.
The interior minister, however, admitted that he was among those in the cabinet who voted in favour of letting Sharif go abroad to seek medical treatment.
"I won't lie, I was among those who voted for him to be allowed to fly abroad," he said. "
Speaking on the upcoming Senate elections, the interior minister said that there will be "no surprise" in the elections of the upper house, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan will succeed in the polls.
The government has already approached UK authorities to extradite Nawaz Sharif. Special Assistant to PM Imran Khan on Accountability Shahzad Akbar had said earlier that it is up to the British government to decide on the extradition of the former premier.
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 government maintains that Nawaz was permitted on condition that he would share details of the medical treatment which he didn't opt for.
It may be added here that the deposed premier has been declared a proclaimed offender by the Islamabad High Court and an accountability court for failing to appear before the bench.
Adviser to Prime Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan had said a few months ago that Nawaz's stay in London would 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 had said.
A leading London immigration law firm spoke to Geo News earlier, saying that 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.
Hateem Ali, head of immigration at the leading London law firm GSC Solicitors LLP, had 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 had said.
Ali had 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 had said: "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."
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 on 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.