Dual nationality revisited

Published: October 8, 2012

The writer is the Chairperson of the History Department at Forman Christian College, Lahore.

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.

Reader Comments (23)

  • Parvez
    Oct 9, 2012 - 12:11AM

    Agree fully with what you have said. It is not only legally wrong but moraly incorrect for law makars to hold dual nationality.

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  • Mirza
    Oct 9, 2012 - 1:16AM

    You wrote “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.”
    Which member of NA or senate has ceased or given up Pakistani citizenship and acquired a foreign citizenship? If anyone of them has done that then their nomination papers should have been rejected prior to elections not after. The drama of dual citizenship is not invented, practiced and publicized by the ordinary people but the establishment. By offering dual citizenship and recognizing it has opened the doors for confusion. When a Muslim man can be fair, faithful and equal to four wives at the same time why one cannot respect the laws of both countries?
    What has election commission headed by top judges been doing since the first elections during gen Mush? Why would these judges wake up after hibernation of four long years? Why their nomination papers were not examined 5 years ago? How can these same judges who “qualified” these candidates now disqualify them after people’s verdict?
    Like my half a dozen posts of today (one of those days) I am sure this one is not going to be posted but I would keep on trying.

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  • Zubair Shah
    Oct 9, 2012 - 1:57AM

    A commendable piece. However, I do have one issue with the article. With all due respect sir, it is inaccurate to state that a LOT of countries have the dual nationality clause.

    As a matter of fact the very country that you have reffered to, United States, have many officials who are dual nationals in many offices. The most famous example of this is Arnold Schwarznnegger, Governor of California for two terms, who has Austrian AND American citizenship.

    Only a handful of countries actually have this clause in their constitution regarding dual nationalities.

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  • Zubair Shah
    Oct 9, 2012 - 2:12AM

    But why though? Why only for legislators? What about MPAs, MNAs, CSPs, Military services or even our PIA pilots?
    And on top of that, why is it morally incorrect in the first place, in this day and age?Recommend

  • sabi
    Oct 9, 2012 - 3:30AM

    Author,
    The clause,that you have reffered to, is ambigious and a good lawer can win the case for those who have duall nationality.Majlis-e-Shoora, for example was introduced on the basis of non party basis electorol.And if I’m not mistaken PPP govt has ommited this ammendment of non party basis election viz.a.viz .Majlis-e-Shoora.It’s my thought may be wrong.
    Waiting for someone to clear me on the issue.
    Regards

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  • Ali
    Oct 9, 2012 - 3:44AM

    these are all old, poor arguments that have been disproved several times, especially the piece about US oath. this oath is taken from 16th century british oaths and has become redundant due to other laws. so the US clearly allows dual citizenship now. its mentioned on the Dept of state website. Also, america scrapped its laws about aksing its citizens to fight–it no longer has the authority to do so.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Oct 9, 2012 - 4:24AM

    @Mirza: Some time I wonder where did you get your education, just writing English does not make you scholar of anything, it seems to me that majority of Pakistanis are not brought up to respect the laws of the land and it’s constitution. If the constitution prohibits the dual nationals to hold any elected office then it must be followed to the tee, there should be no ifs or buts and no discussion. There are several in the NA and PAs who are dual national and lied to the Pakistan Election Commission, granted the commission has failed to do their job and should have screened thoroughly the ones with Bogus degrees and dual nationality. I am an American citizen and know fully well where I stand, yes I love my birth place Mardan but I took a oath of allegiance to the US constitution and I will abide by it. It will be dishonest and fraudulent on my part to go to another country and take another oath of allegiance to their constitution. To be fair to the electorate and country,one should renounce the adapted citizenship and then go ahead and run for elections etc in Pakistan. The rest is all BS and should not be even discussed. Change the constitution, make amendments in it if these people are so dear to your heart.

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  • Bilal
    Oct 9, 2012 - 4:38AM

    The author is not very well informed. Pakistan and america have a formal treaty with each other allowing dual citizenship. thus, the US oath does not apply in this case

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Oct 9, 2012 - 4:59AM

    @Zubair Shah: Not True, Arnold Schwarznnegger has renounce his Austrian citizenship when he became US citizen, Austria does not have has any dual nationality agreement with the US.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Oct 9, 2012 - 5:02AM

    @sabi:
    That clause was put in by the famers in 1973 constitution, it has nothing to do with General Zia.

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  • Mirza
    Oct 9, 2012 - 8:42AM

    @naeem khan Manhattan,Ks:
    Sir I never claimed to be even a highly educated person let alone a scholar. If I were a real scholar or a scientist I were driving a water powered car at a time when gasoline prices are record high. I believe in “a teacher ceases to be a teacher unless he/she is a student”.
    My argument is for those who did not discard Pakistani citizenship and Pakistani govt has allowed them to maintain their citizenship. There is no such thing as half citizens. In addition my argument is when we can claim to be equally honest, fair and faithful to multiple wives why can’t we be equally compliant to two countries. When in Pakistan follow the local laws when in the other country still follow the local laws. As far as fighting against the other country, Pakistani servicemen are not allowed to have dual citizenship. Therefore by bringing the argument of fighting is diverting the focus.
    Thanks and regards,
    Mirza

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  • sohail osman ali
    Oct 9, 2012 - 10:02AM

    I am amazed that whereas the bar for foreign nationals (of Pakistani origin) to become members of Parliament has existed since the passing of the 1973 constitution nearly 40 years, our election commission and judiciary and members of the assemblies have not stood up for enforcing it till now. I recall it was said at least one of our Prime Ministers was a foreign national. Pakistan’s Assemblies should be run by Pakistani nationals- this is the only way we can have commitment to Pakistan. 50% Pakistanis cannot do that

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  • Watch out
    Oct 9, 2012 - 11:20AM

    @naeem khan
    You are one to speak. You have desserted Pakistan and are taking refuge in Manhattan. Mirza is absolutely right. And as for your assertion that we should change our constitution, yes we will change it in due time to make this and many other aspects. Just like the US constitution was amended to allow people of color and women to vote.mThe debate about dual nationality is still very much alive and will continue to be for a while. Allow us Pakistanis to debate it without lecturing us about our English.

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  • Mahmood Saeed
    Oct 9, 2012 - 3:17PM

    @Watch out
    Why does one need dual nationality? Obviously, you do so to have the ability to run away from your birth country whenever needed.. Also, obviously, those working or repatriating money are busy in their adopted land and shoud have no reason to play politics unless there is more money to be made in politics. Is there any thing left to debate, Sir

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  • Oct 9, 2012 - 5:07PM

    This happens solely, in a country like ‘Pakistan’, because, we have, until now, not been able to hold a consensus on “constitutional supremacy”.

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  • ishrat salim
    Oct 9, 2012 - 7:10PM

    @Mirza:

    By your own logic…” why one cannot respect the laws of both countries “.if that was OK, the American oath of Allegiance would have been made in that way…put your question to any American lawyer to get proper answer to your above question…please read the above quoted American oath…..

    Your other question..why the EC has woken after 5 years & why not earlier…? past mistakes cannot be an excuse to let these dual nationals to go scott-free. Counter question…why such dual national MPs not volunteer themselves to declare same at the time of filling nomination paper ? are they thumb-sucking teens ? do these MPs not have moral values ? another question …can these same MPs mis-declare any information in any form in their new adopted country..?

    The clause in the constitution has just been revoked by SC based on petition & not on suo moto….when MPs declare that ” Parliament is supreme & constitution is supreme “..then why do they not respect the constitutional clause inserted by these MPs & passed by the Parliament…..

    I know my comment will not be published as in the past, but let me try anyway…..

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  • ishrat salim
    Oct 9, 2012 - 7:14PM

    @Zubair Shah:

    Wrong….Mr Arnold is of Austrian decent by birth but had to give up after receiving American citizenship…the oath of allegiance is very clear…read it….or to be more specific..goggle the question to get answer….

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  • ishrat salim
    Oct 9, 2012 - 7:16PM

    @naeem khan Manhattan,Ks:
    Absolutely correct…..I second it…..

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  • ishrat salim
    Oct 9, 2012 - 7:22PM

    @Mirza:

    There you go again….simple…if you want these dual nationals…amend the constitutional clause 63 (1- C )…it will solve all problems, wasting time & unnecessary frustrations…it is as if SC has done a grave crime ? it has only gone by the constitutional clause 63 (1 – C ) & not delivered order on its own ?

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  • ishrat salim
    Oct 9, 2012 - 7:25PM

    @Watch out:

    Till such time the relevant clause is amended…disqualification as per clause 63 ( 1 – C ) shall be applicable…so why argue on this subject at all ?

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  • Naseer
    Oct 9, 2012 - 8:40PM

    Pakistan has been destroyed by Single Nationality Holders politicians. Those who are saying that those having Pakistani nationality are sincere towards Pakistan, please explain why have the Single Nationality people have looted and plundered Pakistan Right, Left and Center for 65 Years. This does not hold true in Pakistan at least, I am seeing this loot and plunder of Pakistan for more than 3 decades (over 30 years) by these single nationality holders!!!
    We should stop Fooling Ourselves and Others on False claims. History of Pakistan is exact opposite of this, Single Nationality Holders have already sold Pakistan many times in the last 65 years and they want to take out every drop of blood what ever is left on claiming they are sincere towards Pakistan. No Sincere Pakistani Will Buy this!!! They have looted and plundered Pakistan at will. Actions speak louder than words!!!
    Dual Nationality people are mostly honest, sincere people and they Love Pakistan More. They are thousand times better than our corrupt politicians who have single nationality!!!. Dual nationality people can serve Pakistan in an honest and better way than those having Pakistani nationality, who only wants to loot and plunder Pakistan. These people(Dual Nationality) have already been screened out by the western countries of their character/honesty..Recommend

  • Neutral
    Oct 9, 2012 - 9:05PM

    @Naseer:

    Why r u cursing CEC ?….hv they inserted constitutional clause 63 ( 1-C ) ? Our own MPs including these dual nationals hv passed constitution in which this clause is inserted….these dual nationals are also looters in one way or another, where money plays important role in getting citizenship as being one of the conditions….

    by the way why are we discussing this subject knowing too well that until the relevant clause is amended SC will disqualify these dual nationals as per constitution clause based on petitions by any citizen….why don’t you petition against SC order….anyone has the right to petition SC…instead of frustration and criticizing SC order on this subject….CEC is just following SC orders….
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  • Zubair Shah
    Oct 10, 2012 - 2:48AM

    @ishrat salim: Actually that is incorrect, he did not surrender his Austrian citizenship, he still holds both. Do check it

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