Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid on Tuesday formally announced that the passport of former premier Nawaz Sharif – which expired at midnight of February 16 – will not be renewed but the government is ready to issue him an emergency travel document (ETD) if he wants to return to Pakistan.
"Today the passport of Sharif will expire. Since August 20, 2018, names of Sharif and his daughter Maryum are on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the request of NAB [National Accountability Bureau].
“According to the law, the passport of those who are on the ECL could not be renewed,” the country’s top security czar said on Tuesday while addressing a news conference in the federal capital.
He, however, added that the government is ready to issue an ETD to Nawaz Sharif on his request. “We can issue him an ETD within 72 hours but Nawaz Sharif has not made any such request so far,” he added.
Nawaz Sharif, serving a seven-year prison term after his conviction in December 2018, was given a rare permission by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in November 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.
Sheikh Rashid said the one-time permission granted by the LHC had been misused by the PML-N supreme leader. “The LHC had also issued a verdict asking Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan but he neither complied with it nor submitted any reply,” he added.
The minister said Maryum Nawaz has said she would not give any application to remove her name from the ECL. “We have not asked for any application, it is up to an applicant to apply or not," he added.
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).
Rashid said under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the ruling PTI would win the Senate election, scheduled for March 3, with a majority. "There will be no surprises. The political and constitutional issues will be resolved after the Senate elections."
He expressed the hope that a very important decision of the Supreme Court regarding use of open ballots at the Senate polls would be announced before March 3.
Talking with reference to the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) protests, Rashid said those who had been cursing the present assemblies are now asking for vote in the Senate elections.
"This is the respect for assemblies and democracy [in opposition parties' eyes]," he said. “The elements, who want to disturb the democratic system, have been defeated.”
He said the government would welcome the PDM's rally in the federal capital but no one would be allowed to violate law and create a law order situation.
The interior minister said the incumbent government had recently granted permission to the PDM to stage a rally in front of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) office. Rashid urged the PDM leadership to delay the long march due to the holy month of Ramazan.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP