Efforts to have former President Pervez Musharraf extradited to Pakistan from the United Kingdom have hit a roadblock as the possibility of capital punishment impedes the formulation of an agreement between the two countries.
Officials from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the foreign ministry revealed on Sunday that an extradition treaty between Pakistan and the UK remains ambivalent because the joint judicial team assigned to finalise the accord differed over the likelihood of the ‘death sentence’.
“Capital punishment is the main hurdle now. It is difficult to bring back Musharraf without signing an extradition treaty with the UK,” FIA’s prosecutor Muhammad Azhar Chaudhry told The Express Tribune.
Azhar, who is representing the FIA in Benazir Bhutto’s murder case, revealed that the UK government has expressed reservations over the existence of the death penalty in Pakistani laws.
Musharraf is wanted by the local police for alleged involvement in former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder. A local court has already declared him an absconder and issued a warrant against him.
To abide by the court’s order, Pakistan requested the International Police (Interpol) to help bring back Musharraf to face trial for the charges against him, particularly in Benazir Bhutto and Nawab Akbar Bugti’s murder cases. Interpol will respond to Pakistan’s request within two to three weeks. Azhar hopes that the legal complications would be resolved soon and that the UK will consider Pakistan’s request to repatriate the former president.
The legal director of the foreign ministry, Sher Bahadur Khan, claimed that the joint judicial team found it difficult to reach an agreement because there are two different laws – capital punishment exists in Pakistan, but not in the international law or UK law. “If Pakistan wants to reach an agreement with the UK, it will have to rule out this law at all costs,” he said.
Pakistani officials designated to discuss legal matters, however, wished to sign the treaty without changing local laws. Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar also informed the National Assembly on March 13 that the government was negotiating various agreements, particularly the ‘extradition treaty’ and ‘exchange of prisoners’, with 32 countries.
Ahmer Bilal Sufi, an expert on international laws, was of the view that if Pakistan wants to sign an extradition treaty with European countries, it will have to amend its extradition laws first. Islamabad has to assure the UK and other European countries that those who will be handed over from Europe and tried in Pakistan will not be executed, he said.
Whether parliament is prepared to bring about such changes in its existing extradition laws is a serious question, he added. Under the existing extradition laws, people can be given the death sentence if charges against them are proved true, Ahmer added.
Pakistan and the UK have held several meetings, after which a joint judicial group was constituted to step up bilateral ties since 2009. Interior Minister Rehman Malik also met his British counterpart Theresa May in March 2011 but did not succeed in convincing her for such a treaty.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.
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