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August 12, 2018

Repatriating Haqqani under new charges unlikely to succeed


August 12, 2018

LONDON: Legal experts have said that a fresh attempt to repatriate Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, is not likely to succeed because of weak legal grounds and the Interpol’s refusal few days ago to entertain Pakistan government’s application requesting extradition of Haqqani.

Experts have also questioned the validity of information provided to the Supreme Court (SC) by Amicus Curiae about the possibility of Husain Haqqani being repatriated to Pakistan under a new case and fresh charges.

The SC was told on Thursday by Amicus Curiae Ahmer Bilal Soofi that Haqqani could not be brought back on charges of treason or contempt of court but could be repatriated on the basis of embezzlement charges filed against him in May this year.

Legal experts familiar with the Interpol and international laws on repatriation and extradition have said that Haqqani cannot be brought back on any charges now because too much time has gone by since he left his official position in November 2011.

Unlike Pakistan, most Western countries have time limit on how much time can pass before criminal charges can be filed and even in criminal case of high profile nature, the prosecution can go back only a few years to obtain evidence or to question suspects.

Barrister Rashad Aslam said the United States’ Criminal Procedure Code’s provision 18 USC 3282 sets a 5-year time limit for filing charges against anyone in cases of misappropriation or embezzlement.

That Statute of Limitations would also be applicable in Haqqani’s case.

Rashad Aslam said that under US law, the government can no longer file criminal charges for an offense once 5 years have passed and that will make almost impossible for any application to succeed seeking repatriation of Haqqani in whose case the five year deadline is long over and a fresh case will make no legal sense.

According to another prominent lawyer practicing international law, who declined to be quoted by name, said US and European authorities will question the validity of an FIR registered in 2018 for crimes alleged to have been committed before 2011. “The fact that corruption allegations against Haqqani were filed after refusal of Interpol to act against him over treason and other political charges also weakens the case for demanding his return,” the expert observed. Husain Haqqani expressed confidence that attempts to force his return to Pakistan on recently filed embezzlement and corruption charges “will fail just like previous efforts”.

Haqqani said misleading statements were being made before the honourable judges by stating that Haqqani could be repatriated on the basis of embezzlement charges filed against him in March this year.

The former ambassador advised that it was time Pakistani authorities accepted his right to dissent and ended actions against him “that had gone nowhere for seven years and would go nowhere even now”.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umer Ata Bandyal and Justice Ijazul Ahsen was told by Bilal Sufi that Pakistan may also take up the matter on reciprocity basis for repatriation of Husain Haqqani as per the state practice of Pakistan with the US, as Pakistan has been cooperating to its fullest extent in handing over suspects earlier.

The Memogate scandal — the origins of which date back to 2011 — started when Pakistani-American Mansoor Ijaz wrote an article in the Financial Times in which he revealed that he had delivered a memorandum written by a Pakistani official posted in the US to Admiral Mike Mullen. The revelation created a frenzy of activity in Pakistan, leading to Haqqani resigning from his position amidst chaos and allegations.

PML-N, the main opposition party then, filed a petition in the apex court to investigate the scandal, which was dubbed as Memogate from there on.