According to reports, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its key coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have agreed, in principle, to enact a new law protecting dual nationals from being disqualified as parliamentarians.
The agreement had reportedly been reached during a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and MQM chief Altaf Hussain on Sunday.
The telephonic conversation between the prime minister and the MQM chief follows a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Altaf Hussain in London on June 29th, where the issue also came under discussion.
Both sides agreed that an amendment in electoral laws, enabling dual nationals to take part in elections should be materialised as soon as possible.
Several lawmakers, including former interior minister Rehman Malik and PPP’s Farahnaz Ispahani—wife of former ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani—had earlier been disqualified by the Supreme Court (SC) on the basis of their dual nationalities.
Many political parties remain opposed to the disqualification of parliamentarians on such a basis, but the paucity of any legal safeguards ensures that these concerns remain unaddressed.
“This is our stance and it will not change. We want Pakistanis living abroad and having nationalities of other countries to become eligible for the membership of parliament,” said MQM spokesperson Wasey Jalil while talking to The Express Tribune on Sunday.
“There is a basic contradiction here. When Pakistanis send billions of dollars in remittances, we admire them. But when they demand a right to be legislators, we respond in the negative,” he pointed out.
According to a press release from the MQM on Sunday, Altaf termed talks on the prospective legislation for dual nationals a ‘positive step’.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, some senior PPP leaders also confirmed that the law ministry was preparing a draft of the proposed bill, aimed at abolishing the electoral rules’ clause, which bars dual nationals from being a member of parliament.
During one of the hearings, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had questioned the sincerity of dual nationals to Pakistan, indicative of the strains that might fracture the already brittle relationship between the legislature and judiciary over the issue in future.
Both the incumbent premier and his predecessor Yousaf Raza Gilani had severely criticised the law, while MQM chief Altaf Hussain cited it as being a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens during a party address in Karachi last week.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2012.
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