ISLAMABAD - The government has cancelled the diplomatic passport of former finance minister Ishaq Dar – a close relative of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) supremo Nawaz Sharif – as he did not surrender the document after his term as the cabinet member lapsed in November last year, officials said on Sunday.
Dar was recently declared an absconder in a graft case linking to the Panama Papers scandal. Last week, the Supreme Court had initiated proceedings for extradition of Dar, who flew out of the country after a court began hearing against him in the graft case filed in line with the apex court's July 2017 Panama Papers verdict, ousting Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister.
Officials told The Nation that the diplomatic passport had been cancelled by the authorities after recommendation by the foreign ministry under sub-section (1) of Section 8 of the Passport Act, 1974 (Appendix-IV) in the form of impounding order.
There were reports that Dar had filed an application seeking asylum in the United Kingdom citing issues in Pakistan and health condition. However, the PML-N did not confirm the development.
Under the law, Dar was bound to surrender his and wife Tabassum Ishaq’s diplomatic passports within 30 days of ceasing office as the federal finance minister – by December 22, 2017.
The diplomatic passports are issued to the President of Pakistan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Chairman of Senate, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the Governors of Provinces, the Chief Ministers of Provinces, the Ministers (including Ministers of State of the federal government, the Attorney General of Pakistan, ex-Presidents and ex-Prime Ministers, spouse and dependent children of ex-Prime Ministers, ex-Chairman of Senate and ex-Speaker of National Assembly, Special Assistants to the Prime Ministers, the Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all functionaries of the federal government with the status of minister or minister of state, officers of grade 17 and above of Pakistan Foreign Service for the duration of their membership of the PFS and all officers of grade 17 and above, including officers of Armed Forces having equivalent ranks sent abroad on diplomatic assignments and having diplomatic status for the duration of their posting or other short-term assignment.
Pakistani nationals holding the office of President of the UN General Assembly, President of the specialised agencies of the UN, Executive heads of the Secretariat of such autonomous and subsidiary organisations of the General Assembly and Directors representing Pakistan in the international financial institutions are also issued diplomatic passports. Prime Minister can also authorise issuance of diplomatic passports in special cases.
A foreign ministry official said that Dar’s diplomatic passport was cancelled as he did not surrender it after his term as the finance minister lapsed. “Ishaq Dar should now surrender his expired passport in the Pakistani high commission in London,” he added.
In May 2018, the Supreme Court had ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan to suspend the notification of Senator-elect Dar as member of the Senate for his failure to appear before the court.
In June 2018, the ECP suspended the Senate membership of Dar. On July 10, the Supreme Court ordered Dar to appear before court within three days. Interpol Red Notice for Dar was issued by the government of Pakistan on July 14 to bring him back to Pakistan.
In August 2018, the National Accountability Bureau approved an inquiry into a graft case against Dar for illegally awarding a Next Generation Mobile Services contract and for committing alleged financial irregularities.
Last week, the Supreme Court had asked government departments concerned to find a way of getting Ishaq Dar extradited so that he can be produced in court.
The directives were issued by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar during the hearing of a case related to non-appearance of Dar before the apex court.
The government is expected to submit report regarding the cancellation of Dar’s diplomatic passport to the Supreme Court today (September 10) The court will hear the case on September 11.