The recent Supreme Court judgment and remarks by the Chief Election Commissioner that the “country does not need half-Pakistanis as representatives” has reignited the debate about dual nationality. Allow me to make two points.
First, the Constitution is crystal clear about the issue of dual nationality for lawmakers. Article 63(1)c 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.” Even a middle school pupil can infer from the above that acquiring the citizenship of a foreign state means that you lose your membership of parliament. It is pretty obvious, unless, of course, one argues that the United States and the United Kingdom are not foreign states.
The fact that Pakistan has this clause is not bizarre. A lot of other countries have this stipulation and our neighbour India even prevents any national from acquiring dual nationality, let alone lawmakers. The reasoning behind this is simple, too. When one acquires any foreign nationality, usually the person has to disown any other allegiance and has to affirm to wholeheartedly work for the welfare of the said country. For example, the Oath of Allegiance for the United States reads in part: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I 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; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law…” If a citizen of Pakistan acquires US nationality, then by the very words of the US Oath, they have given up their Pakistani nationality and agreed to work for the interests of their new home. Therefore, they cannot hold elected office in Pakistan, or if they are honest, even hold Pakistani nationality.
Secondly, all the lawmakers who have been disqualified by the Supreme Court after verification of their dual nationality have cried foul. To quote one former lawmaker, she has on her Twitter account the phrase, “Targeted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan”.
While our overactive Supreme Court does leave much to be desired, I am at a loss to understand why applying the writ of the Constitution so clearly is ‘targeting’. Maybe the former member of parliament is implying that the honourable Court is not going after other dual nationals with such gusto as they did with her. If so, then the logic in her argument is as good as a murderer arguing that unless all other murderers are caught, he cannot be tried for his crime. Surely, it would have been better for the formerly honourable member of parliament to humbly acknowledge that she had defrauded the country, accept the judgment, and make sure that other such flagrant violations of the Constitution are brought to legal and public notice. A government that sacrificed a prime minister for ‘the sake of the Constitution’ should certainly go to any lengths to ensure that the Constitution is faithfully followed.
It is a pity that both the National Assembly and the Senate have refused to verify whether their members hold dual nationality. It is as if they do not care if their members are indeed even verbally loyal to Pakistan, or have simply given up expecting such loyalty given the state of the country.
Pakistan has been in an existential crisis from its very beginning and from its inception, we have doubted the loyalty of its rulers. Isn’t it time that we ask people who make the laws for the country and govern it to, at least, on paper — if not more — show their only allegiance to this fledgling country?
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2012.