PML-N to oppose dual nationality for MPs, bureaucrats

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will resist the passage of a constitutional amendment or a piece of simple legislation, being prepared by federal Law Minister Farooq H Naek, to allow dual nationality holding MPs to continue in office.

Not only the PPP is enthusiastically engaged in passing the new law in Parliament, the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) is equally eager to put the law in place sooner than later to save their legislators of this category. “We will oppose the constitutional change or a law that will permit the dual nationality holding MPs to remain in office,” senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal told The News.

He said his party has no objection to having two nationalities by Pakistanis but when they take oath to hold an elected office, they should surrender their foreign citizenship. “We have always supported the voting right of millions of Pakistani expatriates.” Ahsan Iqbal said the overseas Pakistanis have the right to vote but when they got any public office, they should quit their foreign citizenship. At the same time, the PML-N leader said, a ban should be imposed on top bureaucrats to have double nationality. “I know there had even been military generals in the past, who held dual citizenship.”

He said that the ban on dual nationals should be across the board. He said it was no secret that several senior bureaucrats have foreign nationality and were active part of policy making echelons.

Through the new legislation, the government wants to nullify Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution, which says a person is disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, an MP, if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign State.

The ruling coalition has the requisite two-thirds majority in the two parliamentary chambers to easily pass the constitutional amendment to invalidate this provision, and is not dependent on the PML-N support.

The Supreme Court has already suspended the parliamentary membership of A. Rehman Malik, Fara Naz Ispahani, Zahid Iqbal, Amna Butter and some other MPs, and over dozen lawmakers belonging to the PPP, PML-N and MQM are on the block to face the similar fate in the next few days as the apex court scrutinizes their documents about dual nationality.

Fearing that the newly inducted finance minister of Punjab, Rana Asif Mehmood would be disqualified on the same ground, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif removed him just a few days after his swearing-in.

Federal and provincial legislators, who possessed double citizenship at the time of filing their nomination papers and did not then renounce it, are disqualified to hold office as per the Supreme Court order. This means that such lawmakers stand ousted even if they surrender their dual nationality now.Asif Mehmood declared at the time of submitting his nomination papers that he would renounce his Canadian nationality, but did not do that.

The order of the three-member Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawaad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, suspending the National Assembly membership of Fara Naz Ispahani, said that prima facie, admission made by her and contents of the US oath, which she had already taken and subsequently before the Election Commission of Pakistan in filing the nomination papers to contest the election and then taking oath under the Constitution, she had not disclosed that as far as citizenship of Pakistan is concerned, she had already renounced the same and had abjured all allegiance and fidelity to her country where she was born etc. as per her oath taken at the time of acquiring US citizenship.

In democratic dispensation under the constitutional provision, the order said, MPs occupy their positions as chosen representatives of people of Pakistan and if they have already renounced their citizenship, prima facie they have no right to represent them and decide the issues of all national importance being the members of different committees including defence etc., where all open and secret policies for people’s betterment are discussed. Law Minister Naek was not available for comments. He did not respond to a message dropped in his office.