Pakistan

LAHORE – Nawaz Sharif has been ousted from the post of Prime Minister House for the third time. But it’s still unclear to many what actually led to his disqualification by the Supreme Court on Friday. But we can come to a conclusion that it has much to do with iqama, or work permit.

According to Nawaz Sharif’s lawyers, the purpose of the former PM’s employment in UAE-based Capital FZE, was solely to secure an iqama – a work visa – which would allow him easy access to the Gulf state “in his years in exile”.

The iqamas of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif came to the fore lately. Also, former presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf, Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, PPP’s Maula Bux Chandio and a few PTI leaders reportedly hold iqama.

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Now it’s important you get to know what really an Iqama is and why these national leaders hold one.

Iqamas, or work permits

In essence, Saudi Arabia or any other Gulf state does not grant citizenship to any foreign worker but for the duration of his stay in the country, an Iqama is issued by the state to the worker. This legal document from the state provides the foreign worker the permission to stay in the Gulf state during the period of his/her employment at any organisation.

1. Getting a UAE iqama is cheaper and easier as UAE has no residency requirements except that one visit is mandatory in 6 months to maintain the iqama.

But more importantly:

2. Rich Pakistanis use UAE iqama for registering themselves with Swiss/Foreign banks so that they can show themselves as tax residents in the UAE. (Account holders are reported by banks on the basis of residency rather than nationality).

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Swiss Accounts and Iqama

3. If an iqama holder Pakistani (MR. X) has an account with either a Swiss or other foreign bank then he enjoys immunity from reporting.

For instance, if Pakistan and Switzerland are to enter into an exchange of information agreement, then those Pakistanis who are account holders in Switzerland but have a UAE iqama registered with the bank as their place of residence, will not be reported. They will remain out of the probe radar in Pakistan as far as the bank account is concerned.

Perhaps this is why even the former PM (Nawaz Sharif) holds a UAE iqama because if tomorrow he is out of office and Pakistan officially writes to a particular bank to disclose the name of Pakistanis who have accounts with the bank then the bank will not disclose his name as he is a resident of the UAE and not of Pakistan as far as the bank is concerned.