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December 16, 2020

UK paper confirms The News story on diplomatic tension

Top Story

December 16, 2020

LONDON: Britain’s most circulated tabloid newspaper, The Sun, has published a story based on exclusive revelations by The News in a report on 6 November 2020, stating Pakistan rejected a deportation flight carrying around three dozen illegal immigrants from London to Islamabad amid a diplomatic row over former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The News published the report after credible intelligence sources from both sides confided to this correspondent in early November that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on accountability Shahzad Akbar cancelled a London-Islamabad-bound flight to demand deportation of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from London to Pakistan.

The News has originally reported: “The flight to Islamabad on October 20 was not given clearance at the last minute by the Pakistan government and the UK authorities were left with no choice but to take the deportees back to their detention centres.”

The Sun published on 15 December 2020 a report quoting the Home Office sources, confirming two findings by The News in November: That there were diplomatic tensions in relations between the two countries after a “duty bound” demand of the British Home Secretary and the cancellation of the flight from London to Pakistan.

The Sun, on Tuesday, confirmed both facts published originally by The News – widely circulated on social media by both the PTI government and PML-N circles – that the flight cancellation cost the UK around £300,000.

The Sun said that Pakistan cancelled the flight “at the last minute, amid simmering tensions, withdrew clearance for the flight to land. The snub meant the illegal immigrants were returned to detention centres around the UK”.

The Sun wrote: “Pakistan sent a warning that it need not accept illegal immigrants from London if Britain will not return its former PM who many believe is staying in the UK illegally.”

PM Imran Khan’s adviser, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, wrote to Priti Patel on 5 October warning that Mr Sharif “has been responsible for pillaging the state and I trust that you will be supportive of our efforts to bring those responsible for corruption to account”.

Nawaz Sharif’s elder son, Hussain Nawaz, told The Sun: "Mr. Sharif’s second regime was ended by military rule and he was exiled albeit after getting two life sentences on the count of hijacking an aircraft from the PM’s office. He later returned, cleared his cases and got elected the Prime Minister for a third time. He is now under treatment in the UK with ill health yet facing repeated onslaughts of the Pakistani Establishment."

At the time of the publication of the story originally in The News, Shahzad Akbar had confirmed that the flight was not given clearance but strongly denied that the cancellation of the flight was linked to the Nawaz Sharif issue.

Akbar had claimed that flights carrying deportees would be allowed “after confirmation of documentations and following due protocols”. He added: “We are seeking the deportation of Mian Nawaz Sharif on principle but it is not linked to any other bilateral issue between the two countries.”

Another minister from Imran Khan’s cabinet had said the flight from London to Islamabad was not given clearance because it had “not complied with Standard Operating Procedures”. A third source linked to the government had claimed the flight was stopped because the UK government had not carried out COVID-19 tests on the deportees.