The hostility towards the dual nationality bill seems to be growing with time – and the government may have no option but to review the bill.
Not only was it the main opposition and an allied party, but also two senior lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party opposing the government’s newest move to protect dual nationality holders from being disqualified as members of parliament.
The government on Tuesday introduced the Constitution (22nd Amendment) Bill, 2012 in Senate, seeking an amendment in the Constitution to allow parliamentarians to hold dual nationalities for 16 countries Pakistan has an agreement with.
“I have serious reservations over the dual nationality bill. The government should review it,” PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said on the floor of the House.
Similarly, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan observed that whenever a person becomes an American national, they takes an oath binding them to be loyal to the country and even take part in wars, if needed. “Why was the US listed among the 16 countries Pakistan has an agreement with, given its controversial oath,” Aitzaz questioned.
Rabbani urged the government to make any agreement with the US on the issue of dual nationality public, since no such agreement existed earlier.
As Law Minister Farooq H Naek introduced the bill, arguing that Pakistan’s Constitution provides right of vote to dual nationality holders, coalition partner the Awami National Party (ANP) and main opposition party the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) staged walkouts to protest against the bill.
“Dual nationality holders should also be granted the right to contest elections so they may play their effective role in the development of the country,” said Naek.
However, PML-N Senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah vowed his party would “oppose the dual nationality bill tooth and nail.” The PML-N would not allow the government to bring more “Shaukat Azizs and Moin Qureshis” to rule this country and then “flee abroad,” said another PML-N senator, Raja Zafarul Haq.
Earlier, ANP’s Senator Haji Adeel had moved a privilege motion against the dual nationality bill. Adeel argued that a “22nd Amendment” could not come into place as there was no “21st Amendment” made to the Constitution.
In reply to Adeel’s stance, the law minister said that the contempt of court bill which was passed in the National Assembly on Monday was actually the 21st Amendment. Hence, there was no violation of laws and rules.
If the bill is passed by parliament, Article 63(1) would read: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or has acquired citizenship of a foreign state except a state with which the federal government has a dual nationality arrangement under the law, before or after the commencement of the constitution (Twenty-Second Amendment) Act, 2012.”
PML-Q joins the chorus
After the strong opposition from ANP, another ally, Pakistan Muslim League-Qauid (PML-Q), the second largest party in the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government, also indicated reluctance to support the dual nationality bill in its current form.
PML-Q head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain on Tuesday said that people having dual nationality should be given conditional permission to contest elections, but, once elected, they should renounce their second citizenship.
He was talking to media persons during a reception for Imtiaz Rangha of the PML-Q who has been appointed advisor to Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Now it seems that the government has no option but to amend the draft of the bill. Interestingly, Shujaat also claimed that general elections will be held next year. He hinted that elections would take place in “good weather.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.