Long regarded as the president’s chief troubleshooter, Interior Minister Rehman Malik was unable to save his Senate membership from being suspended by a no-nonsense Supreme Court on Monday.
On no less than the tenth hearing on the matter, Malik was unable to convince the apex court that he had renounced his British citizenship in 2008, ie, before he was elected a Senator. The suspension effectively removed Malik from the post of interior minister. However, the government is said to have decided to appoint Malik adviser to the prime minister on interior affairs. The notification to this effect will be issued shortly, according to these reports.
Previously, Malik had remained an adviser for an extended period of time, up until he was elected to the Senate in 2009 – after which he was administered the oath of a minister. As an adviser, he effectively has the same status, except for membership to the Parliament.
The suspension took place after the apex court found a number of factual inaccuracies in the documents provided by him to prove renunciation of his dual citizenship.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, discovered that Malik only recently gave up his citizenship, contrary to his claim that he renounced his British nationality in 2008.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir opposed the court’s decision, saying that it did not have the power to disqualify any parliamentarian. Qadir also told the court that he disagreed with its decision to suspend the membership of MNA Farahnaz Ispahani.
The court, however, would have none of it. While it incorporated the attorney general’s objections in its written order, it termed them “unnecessary” at this stage of proceedings. Things got more heated when the chief justice told Qadir that he should have supported the court on the matter, considering he’s the chief law officer of the Supreme Court. Qadir replied: “No, I will be on the right side with the law and Constitution instead.”
When the court resumed the hearing, Malik’s counsel was absent. The court was informed that the minister has replaced his counsel Chaudhry Azhar with Anwar Mansoor Khan, who was previously on leave. The court rejected the move and summoned Azhar, warning him that abandoning proceedings would be tantamount to misconduct.
After Azhar returned, he remained unable to satisfy the court that Malik gave up his citizenship in 2008. This, the court observed, meant that, when Malik submitted his nomination papers for Senate elections, he conceal the fact that he had foreign citizenship – a violation of article 63 (1-C) of the Constitution.
At this point, attorney general Qadir stood up and asked the court to show restraint instead of passing any order against Malik in isolation, adding that all such parliamentarians’ cases should be decided together.
Justice Khawaja reminded the attorney general that this was the tenth hearing of Malik’s case, and yet the minister had not submitted the document that was actually required by the court.
The court also found that Malik’s submitted affidavit stating that he gave up his nationality in 2008 was incorrect, and his newly submitted documents, including two letters dated 29 May and June 1, revealed that he gave up his citizenship recently. The court also read out a letter written by a UK Border and Immigration Agency official that confirmed Malik was informed via a letter on May 29 that he is no longer a citizen of the UK.
The court also pointed out that the letter also mentioned an enclosed declaration but Malik’s counsel did not produce the declaration, saying that he had not been able to get his hands on it. Azhar also insisted that Malik initiated the renouncement process in 2008.
On the other hand, independent legal analysts have observed that the amount mentioned on fee receipt submitted by Malik does not correspond with the renunciation fee charged by the UK administration in 2008 – and instead corresponds with the most recent fee structure.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.