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Pak efforts to seek Mush extradition hit roadblock

Islamabad: Pakistan`s efforts to seek extradition of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from Britain have hit a roadblock as the possibility of capital punishment has impeded an agreement between the two countries, a media report said today.

An extradition treaty between Pakistan and Britain "remains ambivalent" because the joint judicial team assigned to finalise the accord differed over the likelihood of the death sentence, officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Foreign Ministry were quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

"Capital punishment is the main hurdle now. It is difficult to bring back Musharraf without signing an extradition treaty with the UK," FIA prosecutor Muhammad Azhar Chaudhry said.

Chaudhry, who represents the FIA in cases related to Benazir Bhutto`s assassination and the Mumbai attacks, said the British government had expressed reservations over the existence of the death penalty in Pakistan.

Musharraf is wanted by the Pakistani police on charges of negligence in providing security to former premier Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. An anti-terrorism court has declared him a fugitive and issued a warrant for him.

The former President has been living in self-exile in London and Dubai since early 2009. He recently deferred plans to return to the country to lead his All Pakistan Muslim League party ahead of the 2013 election.

After the court issued a warrant, Pakistan requested Interpol to help bring back Musharraf to face trial, particularly in the cases related to the killing of Benazir Bhutto and Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. Interpol is expected to respond to Pakistan`s request in two to three weeks.

Prosecutor Chaudhry said he hoped legal complications would be resolved soon and that Britain will consider Pakistan`s request to repatriate Musharraf.

The legal director of the Foreign Ministry, Sher Bahadur Khan, claimed the joint judicial team found it difficult to reach an agreement because capital punishment exists in Pakistan but not in British law. "If Pakistan wants to reach an agreement with the UK, it will have to rule out this law at all costs," he said.

Pakistani officials designated to discuss legal matters wished to sign the treaty without changing domestic laws.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar informed Parliament on March 13 that the government was negotiating various agreements, particularly extradition and exchange of prisoners treaties, with 32 countries.

Ahmer Bilal Soofi, an expert in international laws, was of the view that if Pakistan wants to sign an extradition treaty with European countries, it will have to amend its extradition laws first.

Islamabad has to assure Britain and other European countries that those who will be handed over from Europe and tried in Pakistan will not be executed, he said.
Whether Parliament is prepared to bring about such changes in its existing extradition laws is a serious question, he said.

Pakistan and Britain have held several meetings, after which a joint judicial group was constituted to step up efforts since 2009. Interior Minister Rehman Malik met his British counterpart Theresa May in March last year but was unable to convince her about such a treaty, the report said.

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