Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s application for visa extension has been turned down by the UK Home Office with the right to appeal, according to media reports on Friday.
Sharif, 71, convicted in two corruption cases in Pakistan, has been living in London, UK, since November 2019 after the Lahore High Court granted him permission to go abroad for four weeks for medical treatment.
“The UK Home Office has excused itself from further extending Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s visa,” Dawn News quoted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb as saying.
Aurangzeb said the Home Office decision could be appealed against and that till such time the PML-N supremo will continue to live in the UK.
The former three-time prime minister’s son, Hussain Nawaz Sharif confirmed to Geo News that the Home Office’s decision has been appealed against at the Immigration Tribunal, UK.
A foreign citizen cannot stay in the UK for more than six months at a time, pending visa extension. It is believed Sharif was applying and receiving these extensions till now.
It is unclear when Sharif’s current UK visa will be valid till, the report said.
While the UK Home Office directive is a blow to the politically powerful Sharif family, legal experts believe he has a strong case to remain in the UK, citing his health condition — a view which has been clearly stated by the PML-N leadership.
Sharif’s spokesperson Mohammad Zubair said the party would “exhaust” all judicial options to keep Sharif’s treatment in the UK uninterrupted.
Speaking to Geo News, UK-based immigration lawyer Hateem Ali said: “If the previous visit visa extensions were on the basis of medical grounds (which seems to be the case here) then typically you can keep extending for a total of 18 months. In this particular case it would appear that the Home Office was no longer willing to keep extending on that basis.”
He said the entire process could be appealed against which could take over 12 months to determine.
“So although Mr Nawaz Sharif has been refused it is not necessarily the end of the process,” he was quoted in the report.
Similarly, legal experts say the pandemic has caused a huge backlog of cases at the immigration tribunal and that Sharif’s case may take a year or more to get a verdict. Till such time, he is expected to stay in the UK.
Sharif, convicted in two corruption cases — Avenfield properties and Al-Azizia Steel Mills — was declared a proclaimed offender in December 2019 by the Islamabad High Court after he failed to appear before it with regard to other cases against him.
An accountability court in Pakistan in 2018 had sentenced Sharif to 10 years in prison for owning assets beyond his known sources of income and one year for not cooperating with in the investigation of the Avenfield case.
In the same year, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case, where illegal investments were detected. All sentences were to run concurrently.
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