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December 31, 2020

Cancellation of Nawaz’s passport won’t affect his London stay

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December 31, 2020

LONDON: The Government of Pakistan 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 his passport will not be renewed. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed said: "We have decided to cancel NawazSharif’s passport on February 16."

Also, Adviser to Prime Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, addressing a press conference, said 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 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, will matter as he has studied law in Britain and he understands the law well. The question is what happens to Nawaz Sharif’s stay in London if Nawaz Sharif’s passport is cancelled and what kind of options he has and difficulties he could face.

According to a leading City of 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 The News, Hateem Ali, Head of Immigration at the leading London City law firm GSC Solicitors LLP, said former Nawaz Sharif could continue staying in London when and if his passport is cancelled – without claiming for asylum.

The UK Home Office in any event allows those on medical visas normally upto 18 months on the ground that he’s receiving treatment in the UK, he said. Hateem Ali said that Nawaz Sharif 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 granted further extensions of stay if necessary”.

The immigration law expert said: “Nawaz 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 has no other nationality) if his citizenship has been revoked and he is left with no other nationality. However, it may be that the Pakistan government simply refuses to renew his passport rather than revoke citizenship. In this type of situation it would be for Nawaz Sharif to prove to the Home Office that his citizenship has effectively been revoked.”

The lawyer added: “Another option for Nawaz Sharif 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. That may create issues for Nawaz Sharif but the UK authorities can use their discretion in such situations and generally, as long Nawaz Sharif has a clean record in the UK and has committed no criminality, 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.”

Immigration specialist and Inner Temple Barrister Rashid Ahmed told The News that it depends what valid identity documents Nawaz Sharif has once his visa is cancelled.

He said: “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. I don’t see any problem for him since he’s here on the medical treatment and as long as doctors can confirm to the Home Office that he’s getting the medical treatment 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 government maintains that Nawaz Sharif was permitted on condition he would share details of treatment which he didn't.