From the pavilion.

IT is a rum thing when a three-time prime minister needs a diplomatic passport to re-enter his own country.

A blue diplomatic passport is normally issued to 'senators, members of the National Assembly, provincial ministers, judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and high courts, officers serving with the governments when abroad on official assignments, and other government officials'. Over the years, this elastic category has been expanded to include former presidents, ex-prime ministers, former Senate chairmen, ex-National Assembly Speakers, their spouses and dependent children - everyone except their cooks and chowkidars.

The blue passport should be surrendered within 30 days of the holder's retirement from service, but like every such facility, it is open to abuse. Holders hang on to them as if it were a gateway to heaven.

The official blue passport allows entry to some 70 countries around the world without a visa. However, few countries indulge Pakistanis with such dangerous largesse. Russia is one of the few countries that does, but then, who is tempted to visit Russia on a one-way ticket?

When will Nawaz Sharif return, and to what?

Some years ago, in 2013, there was a scandal after it was discovered that 'at least 2,000 blue passports were allegedly either sold to influential people at a hefty price ranging between Rs1.5 million and Rs2 million each, or issued to undeserving officials between July 2010 and February 2013'.

The dozing watchdog NAB was woken to investigate and discovered that billions of rupees had been made by 'a powerful gang comprising at least one former federal minister, [and] many senior officials of the Ministry of Interior and Directorate-General of Immigration and Passports'.

Read: What next for Nawaz?

With so many blue passports floating around the world, one is reminded of the custom at the 19th century Prussian court. It awarded decorations discriminately. It was said that a thief once took away all the valuable decorations he could lay his hands on - except for the Prussian award. He had that already.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has been living in London for the past three years without the conventional green passport. Now that he is legally equipped to travel, when will he return to Pakistan, and to what?

From the frequency of the consultations between him as the power behind Shehbaz Sharif's throne, it might be more cost-effective for the national exchequer for them to reside in the same country.

And to which...

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