The number of Pakistanis holding a nationality other than their own is quite high. In my own family, some children have acquired double nationalities. At least two have had to renounce their Pakistani nationality since the other country of which they hold the nationality does not have a provision for holding more than one nationality.
However, every country which gives anybody its nationality demands complete allegiance of the person to that country. The question of whether a right to vote in elections in Pakistan, as well as the right to get elected, should be given to overseas Pakistanis or not, demands a careful study.
Firstly, there are those overseas Pakistani who have gone abroad on work or for studies or on other kinds of visas on their Pakistani passports and who have not acquired the nationality of the host country. Voting for a candidate of their choice is their basic right and the election commission should devise methods to facilitate the casting of their votes. One method that can be employed is to make polling booths at our embassies and consulates. Electronic voting can also make the process very simple. These people also have the right to contest for seats in the legislature like any other Pakistani, irrespective of the location they may be at on election day. A procedure has to be devised by the election commission to enable them to file their nomination papers if they wish to do so. I feel a procedure can be devised, which does not require the physical presence of the candidate at the time of filing or scrutiny of papers.
Those holding dual nationalities also have their Pakistani nationality intact. Voting procedures designed for Pakistani overseas workers can also be applied to those having dual nationalities. The question whether such people should be allowed to contest elections (of course after amending the Constitution) has to be carefully pondered. I would like to explain this point through some examples.
The US Congress and Senate support drone strikes on Pakistani territory. Our parliament considers these attacks as acts of military aggression against Pakistan. Personal opinions apart, which side will a member of our parliament who holds American nationality vote, while keeping his allegiance to the US intact?
Similarly, the Nato alliance consists of several countries. Our elected government guided by the elected parliament decided to stop the supply of Nato containers. In addition, we want the war in the region to end and foreign armies withdrawn and this desire directly conflicts with the strategy and designs of many other countries Pakistanis have a dual nationality of. Which side does an elected member of parliament, whose allegiance is divided lean towards?
Leave aside military conflicts, the trade war between countries is perpetual. There are questions of tariffs, quotas, restrictions where Pakistan’s interests directly conflict with the interests of our so-called ‘trading partners’. One shall certainly have to compromise his allegiance to one of the two countries, while making a trade policy. Which of the two countries does a legislator choose in such a situation?
I do recall and wish to share a conversation I had with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, when he said that expatriates are loyal neither to their country of birth nor to the country of adoption. They are loyal only to their own narrow self interests. I will not be that harsh but perhaps, Mr Bhutto had a valid point. I would only say that by all means enjoy your dual nationality. Just leave our elected houses alone.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2012.
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