Pakistan calls on UK to deport Nawaz Sharif

Ben Farmer
·3 min read
Mandatory Credit: Photo by RAHAT DAR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10962367q) Supporters of opposition political parties listened to televised speech of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during an anti-government rally in Gujranwala, Pakistan, 16 October 2020. The major opposition political parties, that have formed an alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are gearing up for an anti-government rally in Gujranwala on 16 October. Anti-government rally in Gujranwala, Pakistan - 16 Oct 2020
Mandatory Credit: Photo by RAHAT DAR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10962367q) Supporters of opposition political parties listened to televised speech of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif during an anti-government rally in Gujranwala, Pakistan, 16 October 2020. The major opposition political parties, that have formed an alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are gearing up for an anti-government rally in Gujranwala on 16 October. Anti-government rally in Gujranwala, Pakistan - 16 Oct 2020

Pakistan has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel calling on the UK to deport former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to serve a corruption prison sentence.

The request to return the exiled opposition leader risks dragging Britain into the centre of a bitter confrontation between Imran Khan's government and the country's political opposition.

The ousted three-times leader has been living in London for nearly a year after being granted temporary release from jail for medical treatment.

An October 5 letter from Mr Khan's anti-corruption special adviser, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, said Mr Sharif had been guilty of pillaging Pakistan's state and the Home Secretary was “duty bound” to return him under UK immigration rules.

Britain is understood to have not yet responded to the letter, which stops short of a formal extradition request. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, but have exchanged a number of fugitive criminals in recent years.

Mr Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party, was ousted in 2017 after the Panama Papers leak revealed his family had extensive assets in the UK. He was later given a seven-year sentence for corruption in a case he says was politically motivated.

The letter says that his presence in London is not conducive to the public good and UK's own rules state those sentenced to four years or more abroad should not be allowed to remain. The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

Mr Sharif flew to London in November  2019 after Pakistan's authorities granted him leave to travel abroad for eight weeks of medical treatment. He has refused to return home.

“We would request the UK government excludes and deports Mr Sharif (the convict) from the UK and facilitates his return to Pakistan. He is a convicted felon, absconder and a fugitive,” the letter said.

Mr Sharif has used his London refuge to make a series of outspoken attacks on Mr Khan's government and the military establishment he says ousted him and installed the former cricketer.

He addressed tens of thousands of supporters by video link last week at an opposition rally in the city of Gujranwala, alleging that the sitting army chief had conspired to have him ousted and saying he would be held accountable. Mr Sharif made the rare and provocative step of directly accusing Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of army staff, as well as the military spy chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed of meddling in politics in a country where the references to military interference are carefully oblique.

The UK government has pledged tougher immigration treatment for foreign criminals and vowed to do more to stop corrupt leaders looting their countries and salting the proceeds abroad.

Yet acting against Mr Sharif risks pitching the UK into the centre of an increasingly febrile confrontation between Mr Khan's government and opposition leaders.

Around a dozen senior police officers in Karachi applied for immediate leave on Tuesday in protest at military interference, after a senior officer was alleged to have been detained by paramilitary troops and forced to sign an arrest warrant for an opposition leader.

Muhammad Safdar, son-in-law of Mr Sharif, was arrested early on Monday. Pakistan's army ordered an inquiry after local politicians alleged that Sindh province's top police official, Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar, had been abducted on Monday by paramilitary troops, who coerced him into signing the warrant.