Islamabad High Court on Friday moved to block the expected issuance of a diplomatic passport to PML-N leader and ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ordering the relevant authorities to arrest him immediately upon his return to Pakistan from London.
Nawaz, who has been convicted in a corruption case, has been living in London on the grounds of ill health since November 2019, when the Lahore High Court allowed him to leave the country for four weeks for treatment after Shahbaz Sharif, his underage brother. The Acting Prime Minister pledged that Major Sharif would return at the appointed time. Nawaz later sought to extend his stay in London on medical grounds.
Attorney Naeem Haider Bengotha filed a petition with the International Humanitarian City Thursday, referring to media reports that Nawaz obtained a diplomatic passport on the instructions of newly elected Prime Minister Shahbaz. He explained that the instructions for issuing the diplomatic passport were handed over to the Ministers of Interior and Foreign Relations.
The petitioner argued that since Nawaz was a “court fugitive who was convicted of corruption by the NAB (National Accountability Office) court … this is a violation of the law, a mockery of the justice system and a disgrace to the nation if you obtain a diplomatic passport. Issued to a convict.”
He added that “issuing a diplomatic passport to the convict is equivalent to granting respect, state protocols and dignity to the convict, and if the convict is a fugitive from justice, this is a disgrace to the judicial system in the country.” This act was also “against the spirit of the constitution and against the fundamental rights that all citizens are guaranteed to be treated equally.”
Moreover, the petition said that the state courts held that the fugitive will lose all rights that belong to the ordinary person, adding that Article 25 of the constitution laid down clear rules against discrimination against citizens.
“And all ordinary citizens will be discriminated against if the convict is granted a diplomatic passport with many privileges and immunities, much more than an ordinary passport.”
The petitioner further argued that the “unlawful and unlawful” act of the Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs of issuing a diplomatic passport to a convict and fugitive from court was “untenable in the eyes of the law”.
“The esteemed Supreme Courts have held in a number of cases that public servants have no duty to carry out or obey unlawful instructions of superiors, and anyone who acts unlawfully merely to please a superior will be solely responsible for this unlawful act.”
Advocate Pangotha emphasized that diplomatic passports were issued to heads of state, senior officials and dignitaries, and that holders of these passports enjoy some of the immunities and privileges stipulated in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
In this regard, he also cited the 2021 Passport Rules, which he said limit the issuance of diplomatic passports to a certain category of state officials while they are in office. In addition, he said, according to the regulations, people who are entitled to a passport must apply to the relevant authority and provide three copies of their photos.
“No authority other than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will, under any circumstances, issue authorization for diplomatic passports,” the petitioner said, adding that the process for issuing the passport was not followed in Nawaz’s case.
He said that the process “cannot be waived or circumvented and ignored just because the applicant is the brother of the prime minister.”
It also noted that Nawaz made “disparaging statements against serving military and judicial officials” at public gatherings, causing “embarrassment, disrespect, injury and insults” to the Pakistani military and judiciary.
“It is also pertinent to note that law enforcement agencies have not yet taken action on the above comments,” he added.
Lawyer Pangotha stressed that the convicts must surrender themselves to the law.
Nawaz, on the other hand, is “not subject to the law yet”, while the “federal government is hastily trying to issue him a diplomatic passport”, he claimed.
He demanded the court to prevent the issuance of a diplomatic passport to Nawaz, and ordered the Secretary of the Settlement Division to arrest him upon his arrival in Pakistan and bring him before the court.
The petitioner requested that “while this petition is being processed, no diplomatic passport will be issued to Nawaz.
The President of the Supreme Court for International Migration, Athar Min Allah, will hear the petition on April 18.
In August last year, Nawaz lodged an appeal with the British Immigration Court after the Home Office refused to extend his stay in the country for “medical reasons”.
Nawaz can legally remain in the UK until the court rules on his application to remain in the country. His passport expired in February 2021.