Jolt to Nawaz Sharif: UK government refuses visa extension to former Pakistani PM

In a blow to Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in self-imposed exile in London, the UK government has turned down his request for an extension of his visa, his party said, amid speculation that Islamabad may have influenced the decision

Aug 06, 2021
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Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif

In a blow to Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in self-imposed exile in London, the UK government has turned down his request for an extension of his visa, his party said, amid speculation that Islamabad may have influenced the decision.

"The UK Home Office has excused itself from further extending Muhammad Nawaz Sharif's visa," Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement.

She said Sharif has filed an appeal in the British immigration tribunal.

She said the Home Office's order "would not be effective" until a decision on the appeal, and that "Nawaz Sharif can reside in the UK legally until the appeal is decided."

Sharif has been living in London since November 2019 after he was allowed to leave the country for medical treatment.

Last December the three-time former prime minister was declared a proclaimed offender in two cases — Avenfield properties and Al-Azizia — by the Islamabad High Court after he failed to appear before the court. The government had subsequently decided to cancel his passport.

Sources told Dawn.com that Sharif has been living in Britain on a valid visa. It is not clear when that visa expires but sources said it has a long validity.

However, a non-UK citizen cannot remain in the UK for more than six months at a time. He had been applying for — and receiving — extensions in his stay till now when his latest application for extension filed through a lawyer was denied, according to the sources.

Immigration laws expert Mohammad Amjad said: "The extensions Nawaz was getting were outside the immigration rules and on the directions of the secretary of state”.

He noted that Sharif had filed his application for extension on medical grounds, which was outside the scope of the rules and thus refused.

If he  " fails to secure a decision in his favor on appeal, then the home secretary can remove him from the country." Amjad said.

Welcoming the development, Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a video message said: "it was clear that Nawaz Sharif is not unwell and he lied to secure a UK visa, against which he was residing in the country."

In December last year, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar had told a press conference that Pakistan had written to the UK for the cancellation of Nawaz Sharif's visa, which was issued for medical treatment after taking an undertaking.

The six-month visa had not been extended by the UK, he had said at the time, adding that negotiations were continuing with the UK for the deportation of Nawaz.

A highly placed source in the UK had told Dawn last year that a top Pakistani official met his British counterpart in October to convey that Nawaz is “no longer a soft issue” between the UK and Pakistan and failure to deport him could result in strained ties between the countries.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in October said he would contact British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, if needed, to discuss Sharif’s deportation. His adviser Akbar wrote a letter to British Home Secretary Priti Patel on October 5 urging her to deport the former premier who he said was “responsible for pillaging the state”.

In Sharif’s case, the government of Pakistan was hoping to persuade UK authorities to bring about a “forced removal”, sometimes called “administrative removal” — a scenario in which the Home Office enforces an individual’s removal from the UK if they don’t have leave to remain i.e. if their application has been declined or if their leave to remain has expired, Dawn reported.

While the Sharif case was exceptional in that it involved a major political personality, it came to the UK Home Office at a time when it was under fire at home for being a haven for foreign nationals accused of corruption in their native countries.

(SAM)

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