Thursday Aug 05 2021

Nawaz Sharif's request for visa extension denied by British authorities

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at his office, in central London, on July 6, 2018. — AFP
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at his office, in central London, on July 6, 2018. — AFP

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's request for an extension in his visit visa has been turned down by British authorities, it emerged on Thursday.

Nawaz's six-month visit visa had expired, after which he had put in a request with the UK Home Office to grant him an extension on health grounds.

The immigration department, however, denied the request.

Nawaz now has two options: to appeal the decision with the department, and in the event it is turned down, he can approach British courts.

The Sharif family confirmed the development, with Nawaz's son Hussain Nawaz saying the decision will be appealed.

'Nawaz cannot travel anywhere with his expired passport'

Meanwhile, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed said that Nawaz's passport — a diplomat passport owing to him being a former prime minister — had expired on February 16 and that he is "no longer a citizen of Pakistan".

He said after the expiry, Nawaz had not applied for a renewal.

"If Nawaz Sharif wishes to come to Pakistan, he can obtain a passport within 24 hours," he said.

He said the embassy can only issue a passport for his return to Pakistan.

Opinion: What’s next for Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan’s politics?

Rasheed said that Pakistan has been trying to bring Nawaz back for a while but is unable to do so.

"Only Nawaz knows whether or not he wishes to come back," he remarked.

The interior minister said that Nawaz cannot travel anywhere with his expired Pakistani passport.

Nawaz's lawyers file appeal at immigration tribunal

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb told Geo News that the British home department stated in their response that Nawaz can appeal the decision with an immigration tribunal.

She said Nawaz's lawyers had therefore filed an appeal with the tribunal, which include his medical records.

Marriyum said that until the tribunal makes a decision, the home department's orders will remain ineffective.

"Nawaz Sharif can legally reside in Britain until the decision," she said.

The PML-N spokesperson clarified that Nawaz "has not and will never seek political asylum".

"These people have nothing better than to do than to speak lies about Nawaz Sharif every day," she said.

Nawaz speaks to Shahbaz

Later, the PML-N supremo and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif spoke, where Nawaz informed his younger brother that his lawyers had filed an appeal against the decision, according to a statement by the party on Twitter.

In the appeal, the lawyers have made Nawaz's health the grounds for his stay in the United Kingdom, the statement said.

Shahbaz urged Nawaz to remain in Britain till he recovers and told him that the nation and party hold his safety and health above everything else, the statement said.

"The entire nation and party are praying for your recovery," Shahbaz told Nawaz.

'Either you return the money or you go to jail'

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, reacting to the development, said the former prime minister only has a couple of options left. 

The first is that he can go to the Pakistani embassy, where he will be provided with temporary travel documents, through which he can travel back to Pakistan and answer for the crimes he has been charged with, said Chaudhry.

The second option is that he can challenge the decision — "and he does not have any grounds for that as he is not sick," the minister said.

"We have seen him [in videos] walking in London, and dining out in restaurants. He will now lie to British courts of his sickness. He might even get sentenced for lying," Chaudhry said.

He said that in his opinion, Nawaz should come back to Pakistan by obtaining temporary travel documents and face the charges against him in the country's courts. He said that Pakistan had asked the British government not to allow anyone to stay on that "was involved in corruption worth billions of rupees".

"Imran Khan and PTI have no personal enmity with Nawaz. The only issue we have is that he laundered billions of rupees abroad and is now an absconder," the minister said.

He said the "laundered money" should be brought back to Pakistan, and that if Nawaz returns the money, "he can come back and live at his home in the country".

"It is simple: Either you return the money or you go to jail."

Nawaz's convictions

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6, 2018, convicted Nawaz in the Avenfield reference and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

However, on September 19, 2018, an Islamabad High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb suspended the sentence in the reference.

Meanwhile, accountability judge Mohammad Arshad Malik had on Dec 24, 2018 convicted Sharif in the Al Azizia reference and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment, besides imposing fines of Rs1.5 billion and $25 million.

On October 29, 2019, after Nawaz was said by his doctors to be suffering from complicated cardiac disease and an immune system disorder that resulted in a dangerously low platelet count, his sentence in the Al Azizia reference was suspended by a two-member bench of the IHC comprising Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, for eight weeks on medical grounds.

The high court ordered that if Sharif's condition does not improve in eight weeks, then the Punjab provincial government should be approached for a bail extension.

Nawaz reached London on November 19, 2019, where he has remained since.

The Punjab government turned down the request for an extension in the suspension of his sentence in view of his indisposition and hence the suspension and Sharif's bail lapsed on February 27, 2020.

He was acquitted in a joint reference with the Al Azizia reference — the Flagship investment reference.

On June 24, the IHC dismissed Nawaz's pleas against the Al Azizia and Avenfield sentences owing to his continued disappearance from court.

The judgment observed that if Nawaz returns or is caught by the authorities, an application for a renewal of appeals can be filed.