Our right to know

Published: October 29, 2011

The writer is a health, safety and environment consultant

About the same time as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other powerful members of the ‘Company Bahadur’ were  landing at Islamabad airport last week, a US citizen was quietly assuming his responsibilities as the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. Another US citizen enjoys the unique distinction of being Pakistan’s ambassador in his own country. A week earlier, the governor of Sindh, a British subject, in complete violation of the university rules awarded an honorary PhD degree to a fellow British citizen, who also doubles as the interior minister of Pakistan.  The leader of the MQM has taken an oath of loyalty to the Queen of England, her heirs and successors, while the auditor general of Pakistan is a Canadian citizen. Dozens of other constitutional appointment holders, including many parliamentarians, have foreign nationalities and hence owe their loyalties to other countries. This is despite Article 63 (1) of the Constitution, which clearly states that a person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament), if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state. It took some 150 years before the East India Company could begin to place British officers in position of authority in India. It took much less time for the new imperial order to do so in Pakistan.

There is evidence to suggest that the phenomenon of foreigners occupying top decision-making slots in Pakistan is far deeper, widespread and systemic. Who all and how many is a closely guarded secret and foolproof mechanisms are in place to protect this information from becoming public. The only lawful recourse for a citizen to uncover this information is by invoking the ‘Freedom of Information’ (FOI) law. Unfortunately, this law is one of the most talked about (‘seminar prone’) and least utilised laws of Pakistan. It has the great ability to defeat, deny, cover up, remain silent or deflect any attempts at seeking any information, and there is nothing one can do about it. Here are some examples of how all the government functionaries suddenly closed ranks and took a common stand on hiding the truth, trashing the law and refusing to provide any information about hundreds of foreigners who hold vital constitutional and decision-making assignments in Pakistan.

On September 12, 2009, under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Ordinance 2002, I requested the ministry of information to provide names of all parliamentarians, ministers and senators who hold nationality, passport, green card or permanent residence of any country besides Pakistan. When no response was received for four months, the Wafaqi Mohtasib was approached to order the interior ministry to do what they ought to have done in 21 days. On the intervention of Wafaqi Mohtasib (letter HQR/0000854/10 dated January 27, 2010), the ministry of information sent an interesting response (letter 3/2/2009-citz dated February 11, 2010) stating that “this subject does not relate to the Ministry of Interior and falls within the domain of Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs”. This bureaucratic technique of not providing the information may also called ‘denial through deflection’.

The dead FOI law was flogged once again and the ministry of law, justice and parliamentary affairs was asked to provide the information on those who hold dual nationalities. The ministry’s response (F.23.35/2000-PA-Admn dated April 27, 2010) was simple. “The information is neither available nor falls within the ambit of this Ministry and may be obtained from other organisations such as Cabinet Division, National Assembly, Senate etc.” It was getting clear that the concerned ministries were using the standard operating procedure of ‘passing the buck’ to hide the information on the foreigners who rule this country. Without waiting for further ‘ask so and so’ responses, in May 2010, I decided to directly seek this information from five key institutions, the National Assembly, ministry of foreign affairs, Senate, cabinet division and, of course, the most concerned (and the least interested) — the Election Commission of Pakistan.

As expected, there was a stony silence from all five departments and the Wafaqi Mohtasib had to be once again requested to intervene. The response, however, was only a repeat of what others had said before — ‘we have no information and  this subject does not fall within our ambit’. One can only conclude that there is not a single ministry or department in Pakistan that either knows or is willing to provide information on the foreigners who sit in our assemblies and hold various key appointments.  The only bewildering piece of information that trickled through this watertight information prevention network was a response from National Assembly Secretariat (letter no. 8-1/2010-C&L dated July 22, 2010). It states “as per available CVs, 259 of the Members of National Assembly, the Honourable Members hold Pakistani Nationality”. The response is worth placing in a museum to demonstrate the apathy and disinterest of a parliament  in finding out the nationality of its remaining 83 MNAs or to determine if the 259 ‘Pakistani’ MNAs  hold a dual nationality or not. Are we as citizens not entitled to know the ‘other’ nationality of our rulers and also establish if they will throw their weight behind Pakistan or a foreign country in a situation of moral or military conflict?

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (39)

  • Talha
    Oct 29, 2011 - 10:43PM

    I too want to become a Pakistani leader with dual nationality.

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  • TightChuddi
    Oct 29, 2011 - 10:58PM

    Wow Rehamn Malik is UK Citizen? This is NEWS to me. How can an interior minister of a country, whose job is to make people of the country safe, be a citizen of some other country. This is a bit too much.

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  • Umayr Masud
    Oct 29, 2011 - 11:24PM

    A great article , but honestly the resources and manpower we currently have around the country is slightly disappointing .. the people who could run those positions have grown old and the vacuum afterwards is massive .. the youth is bright but is not being taught well enough. But I agree .. we shouldnt let anyone with a foreign nationality be part of the countries affairs .. let the idiots run it .. hopefully they will learn it and make amends

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  • Sunil
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:17AM

    wait — hold on… I did not know this gem. So people who are not citizens of pakistan, can be “elected” or “assigned” to important public positions??

    one learns something new everyday …

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  • Ali Tanoli.
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:05AM

    It happend in pakistan once i heard this song i remember.

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  • ukmuslim
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:11AM

    i am speechless… i knew something was wrong almost in every asect of pakistan… but this is too fundamental problem to overlook

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  • Cynical
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:20AM

    I think Pakistan was created for Indian Muslims.
    However, inclucion of American,Canadian,British Muslims only enhance it’s global presence.
    Will be helpful in getting aids.

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  • John B
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:32AM

    So PAK has no sovereignty. It is a dominion state of US and UK. Whom do they negotiate for US, UK, or PAK?

    All the oath they took in US, UK, Canada for citizenship and on assuming PAK constitutional office is a lie, lie and nothing but a lie.

    Welcome to PAK, the land of the pure.

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  • Najeeb Mujahid
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:40AM

    Corporate leaders in various countries are citizens of other countries. Countries like Australia, Hong Kong, Switzerland etc. frequently have leaders that are passport holders of other countries. In a globalized world, we must have the best talent represent our interests. Most of us will agree that UK and US citizens of Pakistani origin are better suited to representing Pakistan overseas. So, why stop a good thing!

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  • Post from New York
    Oct 30, 2011 - 2:45AM

    Excellent and thought provoking article

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  • Amjad
    Oct 30, 2011 - 3:06AM

    You forgot to mention that the one time governor of Sind was not only a UK subject but that also his family was on social assistance/ state khayrat in the UK like many of the Muslims there.

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  • Nadir
    Oct 30, 2011 - 3:54AM

    Passports and citizenships are just legal papers. A conflict of interests perhaps? But that argument that people will pack up and leave because they have a blue or red passport is nonsense. Any well to do Pakistani can jump ship on a green passport whenever he or she wants. You dont have to go far, how many industrialists, generals, doctors, politicians, bureaucrats etc own second homes or rent flats in Dubai? People are invested in a country where there family is, where their influence is. Agreed that there should be full disclosure, but a piece of paper, is just that. I mean Major General Faisal Alvi held dual British-Pakistani nationality, would one question his determination to fight for Pakistan?

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  • American Desi
    Oct 30, 2011 - 4:52AM

    Pakistan got independence little too easily; just with a disagreement with a disagreement with the sevular Congress! Due to this easy achievement of the nationhood politicians the concept of nationhood is weak one compared to other bonds like religion. But in defense of politicians it could also be argied that dual citizenship may be the only thing which would protect them from from the military in the times of crisis.

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  • narayana murthy
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:14AM

    The day, Pakistan implements this rule, I think, Pakistan will lose half of its rich and with them, half of the country’s investments.

    And the other elite and the achievers and the intellectuals who have dual citizenship, will happily give up Pakistani citizenship. With that, the country will lose half of its talent.

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  • M.Akthar
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:27AM

    what`s wrong in that? Pakistan is not safe (as top political leaders are assasinated). Our Top Military General Musharraf & Ex-president also lives in comfort in britain in fear of security. If a Military General himself is scared to live here, what to talk of politicians and common man?

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  • Abdul
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:48AM

    First of all there is no proof for any of the allegations made here. May or may not be true. Hussain Haqqani, for example, has denied he is an US citizen.

    The same accusation was made against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, but no proof was ever produced.

    Second, Pakistan allows dual nationality, and the constitution does not bar any Pakistani citizen from holding a high office on the grounds that he also has citizenship of another country.

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  • InvalidAssumption
    Oct 30, 2011 - 9:14AM

    Wow…it’s like having an Indian as our Ambassador to India….ridiculous.

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  • Ralam
    Oct 30, 2011 - 9:20AM

    You must consult the Federal Government Rules of Business to determine the responsibility of the Ministries of the Government. The ROI law only helps those who make requests to the proper authority (it is one of it’s many weaknesses).

    I’ll also point out that requesting the correct officer of the correct Ministry is no guarantee that your query will be answered. That’s another weakness of the ROI law.

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  • Adnan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 9:50AM

    A fascinating read!Recommend

  • Feroz
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:44AM

    This contrasts greatly with what I am seeing in India. There the RTI (right to information Act) is so strong that the Politicians and Bureaucrats are shivering in their boots as people make applications and the truth tumbles out. The trick in bringing in accountability is to create a separate department of information where the applicant should file his query. It will be the responsibility of this information department to call for and access files from the various ministries. Failure to furnish the information in the required time must attract penalties.

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  • A. Negyal
    Oct 30, 2011 - 11:47AM

    @InvalidAssumption:
    Good Idea!
    Possible candidates: Yasin Malik, Ali Gillani, Kuldip Nair, Arundhati etc and many more

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  • observer
    Oct 30, 2011 - 12:44PM

    @Naeem Sadiq

    Historically speaking, the present day Pakistan, barring a brief interlude of Ranjeet Singh, has been ruled by people from foreign lands be it Turkey, Afghanistan, Persia or England, since the 11th century.

    So what is the Passport and Nationality brouhaha, now, all about?

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  • naeem sadiq
    Oct 30, 2011 - 1:08PM

    This article was primarily intended to highlight the non-functionality of the FOI law, which has failed to provide info on such critical issues as the nationality of those who rule Pakistan. Some of the cases of dual nationality mentioned in this article (and many not mentioned) have been quoted extensively in press and TV. The idea was to use FOI to verify this information, so that a true picture may be known to public. Hope others will take this issue forward to demand a more responsive FOI that will enable people to know correct facts. Government departments hiding this info and refusing to come out with facts only lends credence to what ever filters through the media. It is not for the citizens to go around investigating individual cases. It is for the state to provide this information, when asked for under FOI.

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  • Irfan
    Oct 30, 2011 - 4:38PM

    Perhaps the best piece of investigative journalism in many many years. I am a dual national, but I should be ineligible for such sensitive positions. I fully agree with Mr Sadiq, its time that “Company Bhadur’s” agents be removed from such positions.

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  • FactCheck
    Oct 30, 2011 - 4:49PM

    @Nadir:

    Are the families in Pakistan or in Dubai, US, UK, etc.?

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  • gp65
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:39PM

    @Nadir:
    “I mean Major General Faisal Alvi held dual British-Pakistani nationality, would one question his determination to fight for Pakistan?”

    I am an Indian and I do not know about this particular Major General, so I will not comment about him per se. However when you have dual citizenship, you probably also have property and funds n that country. Kids in that country etc. So that government DOES have the ability to influencedecisions. Can Nawaz Sharif ignore what Saudi King says? IF Zardari’s parachute is in UK, can he totally ignore what UK wants? What about MQM? Can they totally ignore what UK wants when besides Altaf Hussain, even Ishrat-ul-Ibad used be on the dole for so many years?

    This whole notion that every time a leader is out of power, they have to leave the country is an unusual and alien concept to anyone in a true democracy (that is probably the root cause for why all these people have a dual citizenship).

    Indian politicians for instance are no less corrupt than those of Pakistan. However if you look at Wikileaks disclosures – at no point can you see them making deals with US that are not in the national interest. This is because for Indian politicians ‘unka jeena marna wahin par hai’.

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  • Bala
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:50PM

    As an Indian, my sincere advice to Pakistanis would be – Leading a country, representing its people (MLAs, MPs) etc is a huge honor. Its not a trivial one, if Pakistan wants to be a true nation – it must not allow dual citizens to occupy such critical positions. Before one becomes an interior minister or an ambassador – that person must decide if he is Pakistani or foreigner…he should not be both.

    Of course, as someone pointed out, there may be some drain of ppl/resources but surely you want 100% pakistanis to make decisions on you behalf. GOI can employ foreigners but its leaders must be 100% pakistani citizens.

    If pakistanis think this is no big deal – then this explains why pakistanis are not able to build a true nation.

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  • Bala
    Oct 30, 2011 - 7:53PM

    Nadeem Sadiq,

    I admire your efforts, in India you would have made a big impact. Indians are passionate about who leads them. Please continue your efforts, Pakistan needs more of your kind. Perhaps take these foreigners to court ? on conflict of interest?

    These foreigners may be made of gold but if they want to lead, they must make up their minds on who they are!

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  • Hammad
    Oct 30, 2011 - 9:22PM

    Husain Haqqani is not a US citizen. Get your facts right.
    http://twitter.com/#!/husainhaqqani/status/130362778643992577

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 30, 2011 - 10:39PM

    We used to joke when i was in mid east these peoples maintain foriegn accounts buy property in spain and french rivera drink imported poland spring water and have passports
    and plane ready to fly out in time of some khomainis sahab comes.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 31, 2011 - 1:25AM

    @Hammad
    Pakistan has history of importing leaders from west from Mohd Bin Qasim to Mohd Ali
    Jinnah to shaukat aziz hong kong citizen.even peoples of pakistan also imported from some where.

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  • Mahboob Siddiqui
    Oct 31, 2011 - 6:59PM

    Kudos to Naeem for his cognizance and making us a party to it as well……Well done.

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  • Umer
    Nov 1, 2011 - 12:09AM

    Dear Sadiq sahib,

    The issues that you have raised are indeed matters of great concern. And it is wonderful to see that dutiful and responsible concerned citizens of Pakistan are taking note of it. I have a serious piece of for you. I wonder if you have considered this previously. I also invite the other readers to ponder over this possibility.

    How about you file a “write of quo warranto” in any of the High Courts? You can try it at whichever of the High Courts is closer to you, and wherever you can afford to hire an articulate lawyer. This writ, as you might know, is based on Article 199(1)(b)(ii) of the Constitution which roughly says this: “A High Court may, upon the application of any person, require a person … holding or purporting to hold a public office to show under what authority of law he claims to hold that office.” This, read together with the Article 63(1), means that a High Court can declare the impuged ‘appointment’ as illegal, once it is approached to pass a verdict on the matter.

    If you feel that this is too expensive, then what you can do is to file a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan under Article 184(3) – since this is a matter of public importance and, in a sense, also related directly with the protection of their fundamental rights. For this, you just need to write a well-written plaint, and then file it with the Court…Then, if the Court is convince, it will act on its own… you can convince some lawyer to appear for you… or, in the worst case, appear yourself.

    It’s good that you have already made an attempt to get this information through the FOI Act. This fact will help you demonstrate that you have exhausted all other remedies available under the law and are now entitled to the extraordinary, discretionary remedied mentioned in 199 and 184.

    I would have happily filed these petitions for you, in the public interest. But, unfortunately, while I am a lawyer, I don’t currently have the licence to practice.

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  • Fortune Cookie
    Nov 1, 2011 - 12:15AM

    The real truth is that these parliamentary guys can get into parliament to earn the quick money in Pakistan and then comfortably retire to their second homes. In their second homes they would either be on the DOLE or receiving SOCIAL SECURITY if they had stayed there.

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  • Khalid
    Nov 1, 2011 - 10:52AM

    I think its simple ignorance on part of our government or they were just paid to look the other way. This news is not suprising where as the more interesting thing would be how these people got their foreign nationalities. By birth? (not many) or by selling their country? (most of them).

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  • HM
    Nov 11, 2011 - 10:44PM

    I was born in the US and moved back to Pakistan when I was 2 months old. My parents are naturalized US citizens from the early 80s. They decided to move back to Pakistan 25 yrs ago and despite having an ‘exit strategy’ and excellent prospects and networks in the US, they are adamant that they will never leave Pakistan, such is their love and commitment to their country. I grew up in Pakistan, was educated in the country, and have my family there, most of whom work hard for our country’s progress, in education, law, social justice, philanthropy. I also happen to be a US citizen and also a British permanent resident. But does my paperwork (in this globalized community) mean that I am not sincere in my love and commitment to Pakistan? Does this mean that if I had something valuable to contribute in the public sector, I should be forbidden from doing so? I believe that we cant have such ‘black and white’ boundaries when we live in an increasingly gray world. Many Pakistanis went abroad in the 80s to find better opportunities and came back to Pakistan out of personal choice. They have chosen to struggle for a better Pakistan even when they had safer options elsewhere. Does this make them somehow less qualified to attain senior positions in the public sector? In fact, their willingness to stake it out in Pakistan despite having no obligation to remain there – that should be something that is seen as positive, not negative. Painting the situation with such wide brush strokes is not the most helpful way of dealing with it.
    Also, Hussain Haqqani is not a US citizen. And here are a few dual citizens who attained positions of power in the US: Michael Mukasey, US Attorney General, Michael Chertoff, Head of Homeland Security, Henry Kissinger and quite a few congressmen/women.

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  • Dec 13, 2011 - 4:56PM

    This article written by Mr. Naeem Sadiq has not surprised me rather complled me to try to know that why this is happening in Pakistan.It is very sorry state of affairs that the responsible institutions i.e Parliment,Executive,Judiciary & The persons at the helm of affairs are not taking any serious step in this regard.It is fact that how the slaves can ask qustions from their real Bosses.It’s not going to be happen for the first time here but our history is full of such like examples that how,we imported our Premiers,Ministers and other Office Bearers of higher ranks directly from U.K,USA,Europe etc.Our Bosses came from there,ruled over us and then flew away to their actual & real Destinations/Homes.Now,It’s high time that peoples of pakistan should be awakened and raise their voice against this Mafia.Otherwise,we will not be in a position to defend the interest of Pakistan and as per Saying by a Poet “Hamari dastan tak na hogi Dastanon me.”

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  • Cynical
    Dec 13, 2011 - 7:31PM

    @HM
    You are a US citizen of Pakistani origin, right?
    Keeping the rhetorics and symantics aside for a moment,answer the question, whose side you will take if there is a war between USA and Pakistan?
    You are oath bound to US and heart bound to Pakistan.
    Personaly I think lot of people migrate and take a foreign citizenship without having any love or passion for their adopted country.For many of them it’s a kind of Ration card.
    It’s a not so subtle fraud on the people of the adopted country.

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  • Khalil
    Dec 21, 2011 - 3:27PM

    I think Mr. Naeem Sadiq should have filed a case of FOI against the Govt. institutions in the supreme court for not provide the information. Supreme Court through a committee of honest officers/pakistani can get the information from the embassies in the world.

    Pakistanis wake up before it is too late.

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