The main opposition party could support an amendment bill in the National Assembly that seeks to lift restrictions on lawmakers with dual nationalities – but with strings attached, sources told The Express Tribune.
The issue of lawmakers’ dual nationality – the latest bone of contention between parliament and the Supreme Court – has not only created unrest among the treasury benches, but in the opposition as well, forcing the two to work together to resolve the issue.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition which seeks to disqualify those lawmakers who hold dual nationalities. The apex court has so far suspended the membership of former interior minister Rehman Malik, and PPP’s Farahnaz Isphahani and Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal.
According to sources, PPP’s chief whip Syed Khurshid Shah approached the senior leadership of the PML-N to seek their support for moving the amendment, which could accommodate lawmakers currently facing trial over their dual nationalities.
The sources said that, in the first meeting, the PML-N refused to support such a move. However, following the second meeting, it decided to link its support for the bill with negotiations for a larger package that would include issues such as the appointment of the chief election commissioner, appointment of care-taker setups in the centre as well as in the provinces.
When contacted, PML-N’s Central Joint Secretary Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan told The Express Tribune that the time to make long lasting amendments in the Constitution has passed. He added that, if the government moves a bill alone, the PML-N would definitely oppose it.
PML-N’s dual nationals
According to sources in the PML-N, the party is reluctant to support the bill since it believes that it would be seen as a hurdle in the way of the implementation of rule of law by the Supreme Court. On the other hand, not supporting the bill would create problems within the party, too.
According to sources, the PML-N has around 28 MPAs and 23 MNAs who hold dual nationalities. However, only a few have been summoned by the court.
The dual national lawmakers are said to have approached Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to convey fears of being disqualified and were assured that their reservations would be conveyed to PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. Sources said some party members also met Nawaz, who advised those whose names have surfaced to contest their cases before court, while those whose names have not been disclosed to remain quiet till further directions.
Sources in the PPP said that the party, with the support of its allies, has prepared a draft of the proposed amendment in the Constitution to protect dual nationality holders.
According to details, the draft has been sent to PML-N’s senior lawmakers. An amendment has been proposed in Article 63(1)(C), which says that a person shall be disqualified from holding membership of parliament, if “he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign State”.
On the other hand, the PML-N’s think tanks are contemplating whether or not to oppose the bill, since it may face a backlash from overseas Pakistanis.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.