Impossible for NAB to extradite Ishaq Dar anytime soon

LONDON: Ishaq Dar is highly unlikely to be forced by the government of Pakistan to return to his homeland, who said the former finance minister has a valid visa of the UK and that he can continue to live abroad without any issues, media reported.

The former finance minister has been declared an absconder by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Islamabad, whereafter red warrants were sought for his arrest.

The official noted that it was improbable that the Pakistani authorities would be able to make any further moves as the matter of Dar’s extradition remains pending before the Interpol, officially known as the International Criminal Police Organization, and that cancelling his passport, however, will only benefit him — if he is made stateless.

In this regard, Chaudhry Ansar Mahmood, an immigration lawyer, said: “Pakistan cannot cancel Ishaq Dar’s passport if the government wants him to come back to Pakistan.”

Noting that neither were there any allegations against the former minister in the UK nor did any British court find anything against him, Mahmood explained that Dar “cannot travel to Pakistan if his passport is cancelled, which will make him stateless, and, in that case, Britain will have to issue the travel documents to him.

Even if the matter was brought before a British court, the lawyer further remarked, it could take ages to complete the extradition proceedings and, even then, the chances would be next to none since the charges against Dar were of political nature and the UK judges would be reluctant to send him back to Pakistan.

On the other hand, Amjad Malik, the solicitor-advocate of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, said the NAB had the power to issue warrants for the arrest of any accused person to ensure their attendance and, if they fail to do so, declare them a proclaimed absconder.

Malik, who is also a life member of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SBCA) of Pakistan, referred to how the accountability court, in March 2018, had directed the federal government to block the national identity card (CNIC) and passport of former president Pervez Musharraf should he fail to appear in the treason case.
In June 2018, however, the SC had to issue an order to unblock the documents to ensure his return. “The fact that the Interpol only last week refused to issue arrest warrants for Musharraf speaks a lot about how such cases are [perceived]. Ishaq Dar’s case is not any different from that of Gen Musharraf.
“By directing to block Dar’s passport, the Pakistani authorities will give him a reason not to be able to travel to Pakistan and appear in the court,” Malik commented, adding that this would, therefore, render him stateless and allow him to apply for “protection under the Geneva Convention 1951 (Article 10(A))”.

He said the Article 10A of the agreement, otherwise known as the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1951 Refugee Convention, ensures a due process and fair trial.

A possibility, however, still remains — should the court decide it would not wait any longer considering Dar’s medical reasons — wherein the minister may be asked to provide evidence from London but only after forensic expert Robert Radley, British solicitor Akhtar Raja, and Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz of the 2012 Memogate scandal fame can offer evidence through a video conference via the High Commission for Pakistan.

Further, a close friend to Dar said the ex-finance minister had “all the evidence to prove that the three-page report filed by the JIT [joint investigation team] was mala fide, on the basis of which the Supreme Court directed the anti-graft body to file a reference against him.

“In case such evidence is brought before a court in the UK,” the official added, “Mr. Dar will be able to prove that his assets are lawful, not beyond his known sources of income, and are in line with his declarations with FBR [Federal Board of Revenue] for the past 34 years and the ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan].”

Earlier on Thursday, as the hearing of a case related to the summons issued to Dar resumed, a three-judge bench expressed dismay at the NAB’s failure to bring back the former finance minister.

Inquiring about how Dar could continue living in the UK if his passport was cancelled, Justice Saqib Nisar, the chief justice of Pakistan, had said: “Where are the NAB officials? What has the NAB done up till now to bring back [Ishaq] Dar?”

Legal experts, nonetheless, have explained that the ex-minister will be stuck in Britain should his passport be cancelled but he could not be extradited to Pakistan.

Prior to that, the top judge had issued orders for measures to be taken to facilitate Dar’s return to Pakistan within ten days. Consequently, the anti-corruption watchdog had approached the Interpol some six weeks ago and sought red warrants for the minister.

Dar reached the UK in November, last year, for medical treatment and has since regularly sent his medical reports back home Pakistan confirming that he suffered from serious cervical ailment and disability. He is currently under treatment at the London Neurosurgery Partnership on Harley Street in London’s Marylebone neighbourhood.