PMLN spokespersons says former prime minister will appeal the decision and vow to avail all legal options to secure a new extension
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s application for an extension to his U.K. visa has been rejected, according to members of his family, adding that the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader will avail the right to appeal the decision of the Home Office.
Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz, confirmed to media that his father’s application to secure an extension to his U.K. visa had been rejected, adding that they had already lodged an appeal against the decision at the Immigration Tribunal. In a press statement on Wednesday evening, PMLN spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also confirmed the development and stressed that Sharif was challenging the decision. She also clarified that the U.K. Home Department’s decision to reject the extension would not come into effect until the Immigration Tribunal had delivered its verdict.
To a question, she emphasized that Sharif was not seeking any form of political asylum in the U.K. “[This] is only a request for an extension in stay on medical grounds,” she said. Speaking to Geo News on Thursday night, Mohammad Zubair—spokesman for Sharif and his daughter Maryam—added that the PMLN would avail all legal options to ensure Sharif remained in the U.K.
Sharif has been in London since November 2019, when he was granted a “one-time” permission to leave Pakistan and seek medical treatment abroad. The PMLN leader had initially sought four weeks for his treatment; it has been nearly two years since he left.
In Sharif’s absence, cases against him have continued, with the Islamabad High Court declaring him a proclaimed offender in December over his repeated failure to appear before the bench in person as part of an appeal against his convictions. The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, meanwhile, has made repeated attempts to secure his return, with Adviser to the P.M. on Accountability Shahzad Akbar and Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed both saying the British government had been asked to deport Sharif, as that was “easier” than seeking his extradition.
In March, the Interior Ministry directed the Foreign Office to refuse any request from Sharif to renew his passport, claiming that he had failed to satisfy questions on why this “relief” should be granted to a proclaimed offender. Rashid has said that if Sharif wishes to return to Pakistan, the ministry would grant him an emergency travel document “within 24 hours” to aid in his return.
However, it is unlikely that Sharif would be returning any time soon. According to immigration lawyers based in the U.K., the appeal process can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months, noting that the coronavirus pandemic has caused further delays. They have also clarified that even if the appeals process is exhausted, Sharif can them submit an application for a judicial review, adding that this could also take several months.
Return ‘looted’ wealth
In a video statement, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that Islamabad had already requested U.K. authorities to stop granting refuge to people accused of corruption in Pakistan. He also addressed Sharif directly, urging him to contact the Pakistan embassy and get a temporary passport that would allow him to return to Pakistan and face courts.
He claimed that Sharif should skip the appeals process, as his visa was on medical grounds and “it is clear he is not well.” He said that a “respectable” exit was preferable to Sharif “lying” in U.K. courts, which could result in jail time.
The minister claimed Prime Minister Imran Khan and the PTI had no “personal grudge” against Sharif, reiterating that they merely wanted him to return “looted” wealth. “Nawaz Sharif can come back to Pakistan, return looted wealth and can stay at his residence here … otherwise he will have to return the money anyway and also spend time in jail,” he said.