After Farahnaz Ispahani’s National Assembly membership was suspended by the Supreme Court for holding dual nationality, it was inevitable that others would face the same punishment. Such has been the case for Interior Minister Rehman Malik, whose membership in the Senate has been suspended, although he will continue as the de facto interior minister by being appointed as an adviser to the prime minister. The Supreme Court suspensions may seem to be overly harsh but there can be no arguing the fact that dual nationals have been barred by law from serving in parliament. In the case of Ms Ispahani, she commendably and honestly admitted in court that she holds American citizenship, while Malik has denied holding a British passport although he was unable to satisfy the Court that he was telling the truth.
It is disturbing that both the parliamentarians, who have had their membership suspended — so far — are from the PPP. However, here have been whispers about others holding dual nationality in the opposition parties, too, and it is time that the Supreme Court investigated this so that the impression that it is singling out a particular party is dispelled. Besides, rather than pursuing such cases, where the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is questioned, it may be wiser for the justices to try and clear up the thousands of cases that are gathering dust.
Ultimately, though, matters such as these should be investigated by the Election Commission (EC), and not the Supreme Court. It is the EC which should find out if any parliamentarian lied on the papers they filed and then decide on the appropriate punishment as defined by the Constitution. With general elections approaching, a stronger, more independent EC would help solve not only the dual nationality issue but also inspire confidence in the electorate at a time when its independence is greatly needed. The two cases, both, involving the PPP MPs, suggests an ominous turn again towards a confrontation between the judiciary and the PPP-led executive. One sign of this is the re-designation of Rehman Malik as adviser following his suspension. This confrontation must be avoided.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2012.