ISLAMABAD: Islamabad’s Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) deputy convener, Dr Farooq Sattar, said on Friday that barring dual nationality holders from becoming part of the political process was not good for the country’s economy and the country in general.
“Overseas Pakistanis are playing their role in strengthening Pakistan’s economy through the foreign exchange they are sending to Pakistan. Legislation barring them from becoming part of Pakistan’s democratic system could badly discourage them. Pakistan should not pay them back in such a way,” he remarked.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad to highlight his party’s policy regarding proposed legislation against dual nationality holders‚ Sattar said doubts were being created regarding the nationalism and loyalties of overseas Pakistanis holding dual nationality.
The minister also said that parliament should deliberate and produce positive legislation on the dual nationality issue because overseas Pakistanis have rendered extraordinary services for the development of the country and for democracy, adding that there should be an amendment in the Constitution on the matter.
He explained that foreign remittances and investment in the country by overseas Pakistanis play a vital role in alleviating the country’s economic problems.
“Being a minister for overseas Pakistanis, it was my duty to take measures for their welfare but now I’ll fight for their rights to be protected from such unwise legislation,” the MQM leader said.
Responding to a question, he said that this type of legislation doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, and instead, most countries encourage their citizens to take part in indigenous and foreign democratic systems. He added that the situation in Pakistan was the reverse, deeming it “quite unfortunate”.
The minister also said he has recently returned from the United States where he met members of the Pakistani community, their organisations and business entrepreneurs. He said overseas Pakistanis and those holding dual nationality are promoting a soft image of Pakistan across the world and are very concerned over the Supreme Court’s verdict on the issue.
Citing Article 63 (1) (c) of the Constitution regarding dual nationality, Sattar said that the lines “he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan or acquire the citizenship of a foreign state” were narrowly interpreted by the courts as the intention of this clause is to acquire the citizenship of a foreign state by giving up the citizenship of Pakistan which is not the case with dual national Pakistanis. He added that this was confirmed by the declaration of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which allowed dual national Pakistanis the right to vote and considered them citizens of the country until now.
The minister also cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states, “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country…”
He went on to say that overseas Pakistanis holding dual nationality claim Pakistan as their country, and Pakistan also considers them to be citizens since they hold a National Identity Card, Pakistani Passport and the right to vote in the general elections. Therefore, he stated, they have the right to be parliamentarians in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2012.