The Peninsula : Deportation accord yet to materialise

Monday, May 04, 2009

Deportation accord yet to materialise

May 4, 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the UK are expected to undertake ‘exchange of letters’ during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit later this month, sources said.

The agreement on deportation may be finalised despite reservations expressed by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

Britain had proposed to Pakistan signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) titled ‘Deportation with Assurances’, apparently to subvert legal challenge to the likely deportation of the Pakistani students being held by Britain’s Border Agency.

The British agency intends to deport the Pakistani students on national security grounds despite the fact that they had been released without charge in the Easter bomb plot.

The British proposal had met with stiff resistance from the Foreign Office, and the Pakistan High Commission in London had refused to issue visas to some British experts, who had planned to visit Islamabad to negotiate the MoU. Prime Minister Gordon Brown had also taken up the matter with his interlocutors during his visit to Islamabad earlier this week and called for expediting the signing of the MoU. Prime Minister Gilani had politely turned down Brown’s request, telling him that the proposed MoU required thorough examination.

But, it appears that Brown was able to win some support for his proposal in Islamabad as soon after his visit the withheld visas for the British team were issued following the intervention of Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The British team is expected to visit Pakistan next week. Sources said instead of signing the MoU, both countries would now exchange letters during Zardari’s visit to London on May 14.

Although, the two nomenclatures — the MoU and Exchange of Letters — appear to be quite different from one another, in effect both reflect a commitment on part of the governments involved to adhere to their agreement on a particular issue.

An analyst explained that the ‘Exchange of Letters’ carries diplomatic value and has binding effect. The Foreign Office is in the dark about these developments. A source said the interior minister was handling the matter himself and the Foreign Office was not being kept on board. President Zardari had refused to appear with the British prime minister at a press conference during Brown’s April 27 visit to Pakistan.

The refusal was taken by the media as a snub for Brown because of differences over the arrest of Pakistani students and the subsequent handling of the matter. However, it has now transpired that Zardari had refused a press conference with Brown to avoid differing with him publicly on the students’ issue, because it was anticipated that the media could be posing tough questions.