ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is working on legal formalities to deport the members of Osama bin Laden's family "as early as possible", the country's deputy interior minister said Wednesday.
The 12-member family, including bin Laden's three widows, eight children and one grandchild, had originally been due to leave overnight Tuesday, but their departure was held up because their passports were not ready, their lawyer said.
The 9/11 mastermind's family were detained by Pakistani authorities after bin Laden was killed in a US special forces operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, last May.
Deputy interior minister Imtiaz Safdar Warraich said the authorities would complete the legal formalities for their removal "as early as possible" but could not put a timeframe on the deportation.
"We will follow the (court) decision and fulfil all legal procedures in this regard," Warraich told AFP.
"The required documents are being prepared and it is being done swiftly. It is not just an issue of deportation, but also there is an issue of acceptance."
Some security officials said the matter could linger on for days due to procedural issues.
Earlier, lawyer Muhammad Aamir told AFP the family were expected to receive their passports later on Wednesday and may be able to leave for Saudi Arabia later in the day. Two of bin Laden's widows are Saudi nationals and the third is from Yemen.
A Saudi embassy official told AFP they were still waiting for the names of the family members from the Pakistani interior ministry.
And a senior Pakistani security official said Pakistan was waiting for approval from the Saudi and Yemeni governments for the deportation to proceed.
"No timeframe can be given at the moment," he told AFP, adding that discussions were ongoing. "There is a kind of understanding but things need to be finalised."
Aamir rejected suggestions that the authorities in Saudi Arabia and Yemen may be reluctant to accept them, insisting the delay was due to the travel document problems.
Earlier this month, a court sentenced the widows and two of bin Laden's older daughters to 45 days' detention on charges of illegal entry and residency in Pakistan and ordered their deportation as soon as possible.
They completed the sentence on Tuesday, counting time already served since they were formally arrested on March 3.
Aamir said on Tuesday that bin Laden's youngest and reportedly favourite wife, Amal Abdulfattah, who is Yemeni, may be sent to Yemen with her five children.
Atif Ali Khan, another lawyer for the family told reporters in Islamabad that he could give no timeline for the family's departure from Pakistan.
Pakistani officials have said the whole family was initially expected to be flown to Saudi Arabia.
A number of Saudi diplomats have visited Pakistan in recent weeks to work out the details of the deportation, sources say.
The discovery of the 9/11 mastermind in Abbottabad dealt a massive blow to US-Pakistan relations and led to accusations of Pakistani complicity or incompetence.
Abdulfattah, 30, told Pakistani interrogators that bin Laden had fathered four children while he hid out in Pakistan, according to a police report seen by AFP last month.
After fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden moved his family around Pakistan before settling in a three-storey house inside a walled compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad in 2005.
In February the Pakistani authorities, reluctant for the Abbottabad house to become a shrine to the dead terror leader, used bulldozers to raze the building to the ground.
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