Dual nationals and the election

Published: June 19, 2018

What might be described as an ‘interesting’ development has arisen with the presentation by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) a list of 122 nomination papers that it has discovered which have been filed by candidates holding dual nationality.

Dual nationality is common in Pakistan, with individuals and families linked across countries dating back to pre-Independence days. In constitutional terms the matter is clear enough. Dual nationals are barred from contesting elections under Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution, which says: “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.” Clear it may be and reiterated by the ECP prior to the 2013 elections, but the fact remains that there are — or were — dual nationals sitting in the previous parliament seemingly unchallenged.

There has been a recent stiffening of the spine in entities such as the ECP as demands for transparency and accountability become more widespread, and the populace generally finds itself connected in ways that it never was even five years ago. Some of the names passed to the ECP by the FIA are from the political and feudal ‘big’ families where the sense of entitlement and privilege runs deep and strong. The fact that there were dual nationals in the previous parliament suggests that in 2013 the ECP did not exercise due diligence. The question today is whether it will act in accordance with the Constitution and disbar those dual nationals that have made applications.

If Pakistan is ever to break the process of elective feudalism that doubles as a faux-democracy then the ECP is going to have to exercise the full force of the law. For those named on the list this is going to be a painful choice that involves, possibly, children, property, inheritance and a sense of their place in the world. Dual nationals tend to see themselves as ‘something of both’ and choice is never an issue. But the law is the law. Give up a passport or stand down.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2018.

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