Pakistan’s ailing ex-PM rejects government’s conditions to travel abroad

Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sits on a plane after landing at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan, July 13, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 November 2019

Pakistan’s ailing ex-PM rejects government’s conditions to travel abroad

  • Nawaz Sharif is in urgent need of medical treatment outside Pakistan, doctor says
  • Government conditionally allowed former premier a one-time travel abroad against surety bonds of $35.5 million with specified date of return

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ailing former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has rejected the government’s conditions placed on his travel abroad despite his rapidly deteriorating health, which his personal physician says requires urgent medical treatment outside Pakistan.
Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Wednesday termed the government’s conditions as “illegal and unconstitutional” saying they were creating “unnecessary hurdles.”
“This is illegal and unconstitutional to link Nawaz Sharif’s travel abroad to certain conditions,” Marriyum Aurangzeb, PML-N spokesperson, said in a statement to media. “The government is playing a dangerous game with Nawaz Sharif’s health.”
She said the arrival of the air ambulance to transport Sharif has also been delayed in the deadlock.
Sharif, 69, suffers from serious immune disorder and is currently serving a seven-year sentence on corruption charges in a prison facility in Lahore. He was released on bail on October 29 due to sharp decline in his health condition.
The federal cabinet on Tuesday held marathon meetings to mull removing Sharif’s name from the country’s Exit Control List (ECL) and gave conditional approval for his travel abroad for medical treatment against surety bonds of $35.5 million, equivalent to the fines imposed on him by the Pakistani courts stressing that this would be a one-time travel with specified date of return.
“We all are concerned about the health of a VIP prisoner [Nawaz Sharif] … However, all cabinet members have unanimously decided the [legal] relief [to him] should be conditional and time-bound,” said Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a press conference here after the cabinet meeting.
He was sentenced to seven years with $25 million fine and ten years in prison with $10.5 million fine last year in two separate corruption cases.
The former prime minister, who has dominated Pakistan’s politics for about three decades, denies all corruption allegations against him, claiming they are politically motivated.
“The government will facilitate him [Sharif] and allow his medical treatment abroad if his family submits guarantees and surety bonds equivalent to the fines imposed on him by the country’s courts,” Awan said. “All cabinet members [during the meeting] had a consensus on one thing: That there should be no unconditional relief [to Sharif].”
However, Sharif’s family refused to submit any surety bonds to the government.
“We have submitted surety bonds in the court for Sharif’s bail. Therefore, there is no need for us to submit any new bonds,” Attaullah Tarrar, PML-N deputy-secretary, told media.
Last week, Sharif’s younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, had pleaded the interior ministry to strike off the former premier’s name from the no-fly list and let him travel abroad for treatment of his multiple ailments. An air ambulance in this regard is also due to arrive in Pakistan on Wednesday, confirmed the party spokesperson.
Sharif was earlier scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom on Monday through a private airline, but his ticket was canceled since the government had not removed his name from the ECL.

UAE not obliged to share bank data of Pakistani iqama holders — experts

Updated 28 min 31 sec ago

UAE not obliged to share bank data of Pakistani iqama holders — experts

  • Pakistan has regretted UAE's non-cooperation over sharing asset details of expats
  • Islamabad struggles to track foreign assets purchased by Pakistanis with allegedly ill-gotten gains

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan government's move to seek access to the actionable bank account information of its taxpayers in the UAE might have hit a snag, international law experts said on Tuesday.

Pakistan believes its nationals are allegedly hiding behind UAE residence permits (iqama) to conceal their wealth and other tax-related information.

On Monday, the government expressed its regrets over non-cooperation from the UAE with regard to the assets obtained by its citizens in the Emirates with ill-gotten money.

However, experts argue that authorities cannot force the UAE to share information on the movable and immovable assets purchased by Pakistani nationals who hold Emirati residence permits.

“It is the sole prerogative of the UAE government to share or refuse (to share) the sought information,” barrister Omer Malik, international law expert, told Arab News. “The UAE government may violate the right to privacy of an iqama holder if it opts to share his assets and tax-related information with Pakistan.”

In a letter to the UAE Ministry of Finance, Pakistan's Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had accused “delinquent tax residents” of having “siphoned off funds out of Pakistan” and “circumventing” the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) common reporting standard (CRS) regarding financial account information, which includes periodic exchange of taxpayer information.

The FBR asked the UAE Ministry of Finance to provide information on “all those Pakistanis” who had sought the UAE iqama under Residence by Investment (RBI) schemes

Malik suggested that Pakistani tax authorities do their homework before seeking information from the UAE. 

“Our government will never be able to get any actionable information if it continues seeking details of its nationals in bulk,” he said. “Our tax officials should track a certain number of individuals, and then seek information about them.”

Pakistan became a member of the OECD in 2016.

Under the CRS mechanism, Pakistan received information of some 3,620 accounts of its nationals in the UAE in August, but said that “the number of material accounts with a substantial balance is negligible.”

Dubai real estate market data shows that Pakistanis were among the top 10 foreign investors in property in the UAE in 2018. Pakistani authorities suspect that its nationals who hold the UAE iqama have been using it to hide their illegal wealth in the Emirates.

“No country including the UAE will share any actionable information and evidence of money-laundering or tax evasion with Pakistan until bilateral agreements for the purpose are signed,” Habibullah Khan, Supreme Court advocate and expert on international tax laws, told Arab News.

He said that it would be “almost impossible” for the government to prosecute people based on information gathered from other countries. “It is a futile exercise, but our politicians do it to play with the galleries,” he said.

The FBR has requested the UAE “to provide a well-laid-out roadmap” on obtaining the information on iqama holders. However, the UAE “has not responded to all earlier written requests of FBR in this regard,” it said in a statement.