Nawaz Sharif’s passport is going to expire today (Tuesday), February 16, sparking speculation about the possible options available to the three-time former prime minister to extend his stay in the United Kingdom, where he has been residing since November 2019.
The name of the PML-N supreme leader is on the Exit Control List (ECL) and according to the law a person whose name is on the no fly list cannot apply for the renewal of his passport. However, Nawaz Sharif can return to the country anytime.
According to sources, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid is likely to give a policy statement on the issue. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has, however, refused to comment on Nawaz’s passport renewal.
Rashid, while talking to a private television channel, said that the passport would be cancelled on February 16.
The interior minister in December last year announced that the PTI government would not renew Sharif’s existing passport in an apparent attempt to compel the convicted PML-N leader to return home.
“We have decided to cancel Nawaz Sharif's passport on February 16,” Rashid said on December 30.
Nawaz Sharif, serving a seven-year prison term after his conviction in December 2018, was given a rare permission in October 2019 to get medical treatment abroad in view of a debilitating health condition.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC), however, declared him a proclaimed offender on December 2, 2020 as the former premier failed to appear before a bench – originally formed to hear his appeals against his convictions – despite various notices.
According to a report published in October in London-based Financial Times newspaper, Pakistan also asked the British government to repatriate Nawaz Sharif through a letter that Adviser to the PM on Accountability Mirza Shehzad Akbar wrote to British Home Secretary Priti Patel.
In the letter, Akbar wrote that 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”. He added that the home secretary was “duty bound” to deport the former prime minister.
However, some experts believe it will be Nawaz Sharif who will benefit from a decision not to renew his passport. They said even if Nawaz’s passport is not renewed, the British government may give an extension in his visa. They said the UK government has done that in the case of PML-N leader Ishaq Dar.
When the Pakistan government refused to issue him a new passport after the expiry of the previous one, the UK government gave Dar the permission to stay in Britain, they said. The experts said Nawaz Sharif is not on the negative list of any security agency and there is no adverse report against him.
They said the decision to renew Nawaz’s decision is now to be taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while the Ministry of Interior’s policy with regard to the citizens above 55 years of age is that they do not need to renew their computerized national identity cards (CNICs).