The issue of dual nationality holders being allowed to contest elections is a contentious one that has sparked a debate in the country and has resulted in the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualifying several members of parliament and provincial assemblies after evidence emerged that they were dual nationals.
Article 63 (1) – C of Pakistan’s Constitution states: “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 was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that this constitutional bar against dual nationals participating in elections was strictly enforced. However, a lenient approach adopted by the ECP towards this very clear election rule in polls after polls since day one has resulted in a number of ‘dual nationals’ sneaking into Parliament after every election.
It was only recently that the nation was rudely made aware of the violation of this particular constitutional clause when the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified a number of parliamentarians for holding dual nationality.
A national debate has since ensued on whether or not to allow dual nationals to contest elections and whether they should be, if they return to assemblies, allowed to join the cabinet. Questions have also arisen about whether dual nationals should be allowed to hold top public sector jobs, join the judiciary and military and civil services.
Meanwhile, the ruling coalition led by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has moved a draft retaining bill in Parliament seeking to remove from the Constitution the relevant clauses that bar dual nationals from contesting elections.
In a rare show of public disagreement over proposed legislation, members of the ruling coalition, and even the PPP itself, have spoken out against the dual nationality bill. That should provide some indication to the party that it needs to rethink its policy on the issue. The ANP has refused to support it, other major coalition partners have expressed reservations, and even party stalwarts such as Aitzaz Ahsan and Raza Rabbani are opposing it publicly. Given this, it is unlikely that the bill survive, at least in its current form. While the PPP may be able to eventually push it through the Senate, it is not likely to be able to do so in the National Assembly where a two-third majority is required to pass a constitutional bill.
Those who are in favor of retaining the relevant clauses and enforcing them stringently by the ECP are seemingly driven by concerns about loyalties of members with dual citizenship. A dual citizen must take an oath of allegiance to their new countries and in the case of the United States, must “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”
Simply put, this means that citizens of the United States must renounce and give up their allegiance and loyalty they had once pledged to any foreign power or state of which they were citizens. Any Pakistani who obtains US citizenship must take this oath of allegiance and reject his loyalty to Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistanis acquiring citizenship of the UK and Canada must swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth.
According to the Conduct of General Elections Order of 2002, Section 8D (2): “A person shall be disqualified to be elected or chosen as a member of a House of the Parliament or Provincial Assembly if (d) he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign State.”
This raises several questions over the practice of political parties nominating candidates with dual citizenship, knowing full well that this is in violation of the Constitution and the Conduct of General Elections Order. And also queries have been raised whether it was a question of negligence or ignorance on the part of the Election Commission Pakistan for failing to strictly enforce the rule.
Conflict of Interest
The responsibilities and oaths make for conflicted loyalties and obligations. These are necessary to look at to understand whether dual citizens should be allowed to hold office in Pakistan.
For example, members of parliament who vote on resolutions, for example, opposing the resumption of Nato supply routes are theoretically damaging the interests of the countries they are citizens of, such as the US. Where do the loyalties of dual nationals lie when they vote on resolutions such as the one passed on April 12, 2012 reviewing terms of engagement with US / Nato / Isaf and general foreign policy, which included: “The Government needs to ensure that the principles of an independent foreign policy must be grounded in strict adherence to the Principles of Policy as stated in Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the UN Charter and observance of international law.
The US footprint in Pakistan must be reviewed. This means (i) an immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan, (ii) the cessation of infiltration into Pakistani territory on any pretext, including hot pursuit; (iii) Pakistani territory including its air space shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan.”
This can also extend to US Green Card holders. US Green card holders are required to obey all laws, file income tax returns and report all incomes earned and to defend the country if the need arises, amongst other responsibilities. Men aged 18 to 25 are also required to register with the Selective Service, which means the military draft.
There are several other potential conflicts of interest that may arise in terms of foreign policy, that bring into question what the course of action that members of parliament with dual nationality will take.
Imported prime ministers
Two prime ministers were thrust upon the country – on both occasions when elected governments were removed. Both the ‘imported prime ministers ‘ are back in their ‘dual nationality countries’.
Moeen Qureshi was invited by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, of course with the consent of the then COAS General Mirza Aslam Beg in 1993 to assume the charge of caretaker prime minister, while Shaukat Aziz was imported by General Pervez Musharraf after his coup in 1999. Initially Shaukat Aziz was made the finance minister. Later he was elevated as prime minister in 2004.
Imported ministers and prime ministers have no stake in Pakistan. They go back ‘home’ when they conclude their ‘assignments’ in Pakistan.
Subcontinent’s constitutions bar dual
Dual nationals in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have similar provisions in their respective
constitutions – they do not allow ‘persons with dual nationalities ‘ into their parliament.
Constitution of Pakistan
Article 63 (1-c).
Disqualifications for membership of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament):
(1) 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;
Constitution of India
Article 102 (1-d).
A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either
House of Parliament— if he is not a citizen of India, or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, or is under any acknowledgment of allegiance or adherence to a foreign State;
Constitution of Bangladesh
Section 66 (2c).
A person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of Parliament who
acquires the citizenship of, or affirms or acknowledges allegiance to, a foreign state;
While the members of parliament and provincial assemblies take an oath that they will function in accordance with the Constitution and vow to “preserve, protect and defend” it, it is the same Constitution that they are striving for that states that they cannot be members of parliament if they are dual nationals. Article 63 (1) – C of Pakistan’s Constitution states: “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.”
Responsibilities of citizens
• Support and defend the Constitution.
• Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
• Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities.
• Defend the country if the need should arise.
Green Card holders - A Green Card holder (permanent resident) is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, a person is granted a permanent resident card, commonly called a “Green Card.”
Responsibilities of a Green Card Holder (Permanent Resident)
• Required to obey all laws of the United States the states, and localities
Affirmation of allegiance
“I (name) do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.”
“I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2012.