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An Extradition Treaty Between UK & Pakistan Seems to be in the Offing

by Nazir Tabassum

The act by one jurisdiction to deliver a person who has been accused of committing a crime in another jurisdiction or has been convicted of a crime in that other jurisdiction into the custody of a law enforcing agency of the other jurisdiction is termed as extradition. Extradition is normally regulated by treaties between the countries.

The consensus in international law is that a state does not have any obligation to surrender an alleged criminal to a foreign state, because one principle of sovereignty is that every state has legal authority over the people within its borders.

Pakistan has signed the extradition treaty with few countries such as Thailand and does not have such treaties with a large number of countries. The phenomena have been leading the country to a number of issues when it comes to extradition of Pakistani nationals who are wanted by law but are residing abroad in the countries with which Pakistan does not have a bilateral agreement of exchange of offenders.

In the first quarter of this year Pakistan’s interior ministry took an initiative to finalise crucial extradition treaties with key global powers including the UK, China and other important states remaining situated in the Gulf, Middle East and the adjoining belt.

There are thousands of Pakistanis suffering in the jails of US, UK, China other Arab and European countries on account of various crimes. Most of them are serving sentences for charges of drug smuggling and are under trial in many cases.

The Pakistani nationals will complete their remaining prison terms in Pakistan who are presently lodged in prisons of different countries under different charges as a result of extradition treaties.

It is expected that such a move will bring a lot of positive changes on the international image of Pakistan. Moreover, the law enforcing agencies of Pakistan have long been demanding that Pakistan should sign the extradition treaties with all countries of the world for smooth exchange of criminals who are wanted by law.

The signing of extradition treaty with UK will have a great impact on the corruption cases involving sons of Mian Nawaz Sharif the former Pakistani premier, now serving a jail term after conviction, Ishaq Dar, the absconding former Finance Minister of Pakistan and Altaf Hussain, the founder of MQM.

There has been a long history of Pakistan’s extraditing wanted persons to the UK and the US even in the absence of any extradition treaties. Pakistani leaders in powers have been heavily paid by the US government after 9/11 for handing over to them a number of suspects.

A former British MP, Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, the incumbent Governor of Punjab (Pakistan) has been instrumental in getting extradited to Britain the killers of 15-year old Kriss Donald who was murdered in Glasgow in 2004. Similarly, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, a Libyan suspect in Lockerbie bombing was handed over to the British authorities on the express orders of late Col Qaddafi as part of his attempts to build rapprochement with the outside world.

It looks from the countenances of the leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf, who have recently embarked on power platform in Islamabad that Pakistan may soon start work on finalising an extradition treaty with the UK. This is by and large intended to bring back corrupt state functionaries as well as those wanted in heinous crimes.

If it so happened in actuality, Pakistan would become a member of club consisting of 105 members, including Bangladesh. Pakistan has earlier been seeking such a treaty with the UK but the former rejected this request on the pretext that it does not sign extradition treaty with countries frequently subjected to the military rule. UK has never entered into such treaties with most of the Commonwealth countries except India.

In spite of the extradition treaty with India since 1992, and several extradition requests by the Indian government, UK only once obliged the Indian government in 2017. The Hindustan Times wrote in May 2017: “Key Indians wanted but based in the UK include Lalit Modi, Tiger Hanif, Nadeem Saifi, Ravi Sankaran and Vijay Mallya. The only person extradited so far was Samibhai Vinubhai Patel in October 2016. He was wanted in a case related to the 2002 Gujarati riots.

Extradition entails a country’s standing on the power pedestal of the globe. This can be substantiated by citing a Russian example. Russian constitution prohibits extradition. So, they refused to hand over its citizen Andrei Lugovoi to the UK. The man was wanted for the poisoning if dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

Germany too has a very strong Constitutional Law in this regard. If the German Constitutional Court feels the request is not appropriate – perhaps for being a minor offence – it can block the extradition.

Though no formal extradition treaty exists between UK and Pakistan, section 194 of the UK Extradition Act 2003 does allow and contains provisions for special “ad hoc” extradition arrangements.

Contrary to Pakistan which did hand over killers of the Scottish teenager in 2004, the UK has probably never made these special “ad hoc” extradition arrangements to hand over any accused to Pakistan authorities.

An in-depth study shows that the UK can still refuse extradition requests despite having signed extradition treaties in line with its Extradition Act of 2003, which is an Act of the Parliament of the UK. This Act had come into force on January 1, 2004. There are a number of reasons for extradition requests that include double jeopardy, extraneous considerations, passage of time, age of wanted person, absence of specialty provisions, human rights, death penalty etc.

Britain is on the point of signing its first extradition treaty with Pakistan in a move that could see money launderer, terror suspects, honour-killers and other criminals flown to London and to Islamabad very soon.

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