Under law, can expatriates govern?

Published: October 13, 2011
The writer is a retired economist who blogs at afpakwar.com

The writer is a retired economist who blogs at afpakwar.com [email protected]

In an op-ed published some weeks ago in The News titled “Dilemmas of loyalty”, Babar Sattar, a respected Islamabad lawyer makes the astonishing claim that: “…the law does not require public office holders, including the prime minister, federal ministers, judges etc. (or parliamentarians for that matter) to cede a foreign citizenship, should they have one, before swearing the oath of allegiance to the Constitution of Pakistan and their respective offices.”

This is like saying that the law does not require a thief to cede the goods he has stolen. Whether technically correct or not, the point is that it is against the law for the thief to have the stolen goods in the first place. In exactly the same way, it is against the law for anyone who holds a foreign citizenship to be a cabinet minister in the first place, so that the question of “ceding” his or her foreign citizenship does not arise.

This is because under Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of … Parliament, if … he … acquires the citizenship of a foreign State…” In other words, while it is lawful for a Pakistani to hold a dual citizenship (of certain specified countries), once he acquires it, he cannot be “elected” or be “chosen as” or “be” a member of parliament. Then, Article 92 of the Constitution requires that cabinet members should be appointed from members of the parliament. Under law, therefore, dual citizens cannot hold the office of prime minister, federal minster, or be a member of parliament.

As for the newly-appointed auditor-general, he may no doubt be a fine upright gentleman. As a Canadian citizen, however, he has taken the following oath of citizenship: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

At the same time, as auditor-general he is required to take the following oath: “I, [name], do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan: That … I will discharge my duties and perform my functions honestly, faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law and to the best of my knowledge, ability and judgment, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, and that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions.”

In defending this appointment, Mr Babar Sattar asks: does his Canadian passport “make him a criminal or a traitor unfit to serve as the AG?” Obviously not; but this is beside the point. In law, one can be “faithful” to more than one subsidiary lord, but can owe “allegiance” to only one master, who has no superior, and “true” faith or allegiance cannot be shared. This follows from the well-established legal maxim that “no man can serve two masters” (based on the Bible, Matthew 6:24).

The difficulty therefore is not that a dual citizen is a criminal or a traitor; it is that no man can “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Elizabeth II” andbear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan” as well. For a situation may well arise where as a Canadian citizen the Auditor-General of Pakistan may be influenced by “fear or favor, affection or ill-will” in discharging his duties. That is why the Constitution, wisely, does not allow Pakistanis with foreign citizenships to hold any public office where this may involve a conflict of interest.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2011. 

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Talha
    Oct 13, 2011 - 11:57PM

    I want to become the leader of Pakistan as a foreign citizen.

    I can do this with the help of the Zionists/Free Masons/Hindus/Ahmadis etc.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Oct 14, 2011 - 12:48AM

    Doctor Sahib, my ex-Boss,



  • Truth Seeker
    Oct 14, 2011 - 5:15AM

    Conflict of Interest is the hallmark of Pakistani rulers, so dare not touch this sacred cow.
    Poor masses will remain stuck with the shackles of poverty because they are unaware of their interests.


  • H.A. Khan
    Oct 14, 2011 - 7:35AM

    Newspapers and journalist should do more investigations and report the true facts.They will find out a good number of member of parliaments have foreign passports,foreign bank accounts and own properties in foreign countries.

    We do come out as strange country with strange values internationally


  • Ch Allah Daad
    Oct 14, 2011 - 8:29AM

    Dual or single, both these classes have failed. We need real foreigners.


  • Ch Allah Daad
    Oct 14, 2011 - 8:32AM

    Why do you call it governing? Its looting and all are welcome.


  • Parvez
    Oct 14, 2011 - 3:29PM

    The issue you have raised is of paramount importance. You have clearly expressed what a lot of thinking Pakistanis are agitated about.
    If those Pakistanis with dual nationality are asked as to why they opted for the second one. The truthful answer would be ” because I have lost faith in my previous country, I see no hope of improvement and having the option available for a better life I took it “.
    Any other reply would be blatant dishonesty.
    His/her loyalty to this country is suspect. Its the perception of his/her loyalty to his/her benefactors and self interest that immediately surface, and perception is what matters.


  • Oct 14, 2011 - 5:21PM

    In a globalizied world this argument is becoming weaker and weaker. A foreign passport is a piece of paper, thats about it. Home is where you are invested in; financially, emotinally and psychologically. Having dual nationality where someone can jump ship is valid to an extent, however, its not as if well connected and resourcesful Pakistanis with only a Pakistani passport dont have the ability to move out of the country whenever they want.

    This argument is legally valid, but also reflects on what is wrong with us the most. A particular peice of paper should not impede someone from serving their country, as long as they are law abiding, pay their taxes and dues. If a dual national is to hold public office, obviously that should be made public and he/she may be asked to surrender their passport for the duration of their time in office, etc. This argument that just because someone has attended a 30 minute citizinship ceremony in a foreign country, and now shares nationalistic and emotional ties between Pakistan and another country is absurd. Recommend

  • John B
    Oct 15, 2011 - 6:00PM

    Only in PAK.

    Degree is a degree, fake or original, so what? Remember reading this answer from a PAK NA member when questioned about his fake degree. So, what is wrong in a fake oath, whether it is for PAK or other country!

    So why should people outside of PAK believe that the treaty in international affairs, or a promise in bilateral cooperation, or a contract in business transaction will be honored in perpetuity in Pak?

    If they can betray their countries, native and adopted, what else they are capable of?

    Heard rumors that PAK ambassador to the US is an US citizen. True?


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