ISLAMABAD: In a decision that could have far-reaching implications on the country’s political landscape, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has put a bar on those having dual nationality to contest elections for any legislative house in Pakistan.
Citing article 63-1(c) of the Constitution, ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan said the commission has issued directives to the returning officers to obtain the declaration on oath from all the persons filing nomination papers for elections to a seat of parliament or a provincial assembly from now on.
Interestingly, the law was already in place but had never been made operational. Article 63(1) (c) of the Constitution 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.”
It is not yet clear how this new bar would affect the sitting lawmakers having dual nationalities. However, sources told The Express Tribunethat the commission has written letters to the Senate chairman and speakers of the National and provincial assemblies to send lists of members having dual nationalities.
Hamid Khan, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, when asked about the fate of existing members with twin nationalities, said it remains to be seen how the clause is implemented.
“To try the cases of all such MPs, the speaker would have to send references to the commission. Such lawmakers can take a plea that their nominations were not challenged at the time of their elections,” according to Khan.
Senator SM Zafar welcomed the decision and said that it should have been made long ago. He said that under this decision the dual nationals would not be able to contest elections but the rest of their rights as Pakistanis would remain intact. He added that those dual nationals serving in different government departments would not be affected.
On the fate of sitting MPs with twin nationalities, Zafar said, “Morally they should themselves resign voluntarily, otherwise any citizen can submit an application to the speaker of the respective house against any such lawmaker. In case the complainant proves that the legislator holds dual nationality the speaker would be bound to send a reference against such member to the ECP for further action.”
There is currently no confirmation on the number of lawmakers holding dual nationalities. An official of the ECP said the clause is operational now and it will be implemented for the first time in the Senate by-election in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The nomination papers for this seat would be accepted from December 20, and polls will be held on January 4.
The officials of the commission said keeping in view that the decision can be challenged in the court of law it had decided to implement it from by-polls so that before the next general elections all litigations in this regard are settled and the clause could be implemented in letter and spirit.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ