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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Can dual nationals hold public offices in Pakistan?

News Analysis |

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) faced one more major setback on Wednesday when the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified its two senators for possessing dual nationality. A larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice (CJ) Saqib Nisar directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to de-notify Sadia Abbasi, the sister of former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Haroon Akhtar as members of the Parliament.

Earlier while hearing a Suo Motu notice regarding dual nationals the court had ordered to withhold the victory notification of the senators. The court held that both the PML-N leaders possessed foreign nationality at the time of submission of their nomination papers for the Senate election held in March this year.

The top court had mentioned that the lawmakers were being disqualified under Article 62 and Article 63 of the Constitution.

This is the latest hitch the embattled PML-N had to face after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, defeat in general elections, and arrest of party president in an alleged corruption case. According to the details, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Chaudhry Sarwar, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s sister Sadia Abbasi, the PML-N’s Nuzhat Sadiq and Haroon Akhtar reportedly possessed dual nationalities.

PTI’s Chaudhry Sarwar, current Governor Punjab who managed to win the Senate election on PTI’s ticket, clarified that he gave up British nationality when he became the Punjab governor in 2013. He further said that the allegations regarding his dual nationality were “baseless”.

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He took to Twitter and said: “Absolute baseless allegations circulating on the media that I am a dual national. I gave up my British nationality when I became the Governor of Punjab in 2013. I am now a Pakistani passport holder only.”

The court has directed the Pakistan Foreign Ministry to verify Sarwar’s details from the British Foreign Office within six weeks.

Moreover, a report was submitted to the top court regarding the dual nationalities of civil servants. There are as many as 115 civil servants in the country who are currently holding dual citizenships,64 civil servants in Punjab, 5 in Sindh, 9 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 28 in Azad Kashmir, 8 in Baluchistan, and 1 in Gilgit Baltistan (GB), read the report.

Politicians who have dual nationalities are too often subject to political victimization here in Pakistan.

The court directed to those who are hiding their dual citizenship, and warned them of removing from their respective if they fail to convey about their dual citizenship status to the authorities concerned.

Dual Nationals: Verdict of the Supreme Court and Declaration of ECP

The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled back in 2012 that lawmakers holding dual nationalities were not eligible to hold any public offices and declared all such lawmakers as disqualified. The top court had mentioned that the lawmakers were being disqualified under Article 62 and Article 63 of the Constitution.

A three-judge bench led by the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry disqualified 4 legislators from the National Assembly, 5 from the Punjab Assembly and 2 from the Sindh Assembly back then. The ECP had declared in 2013– while hearing a petition challenging the qualification of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri to head his party– that dual nationals could not hold any office in a political party.

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Under Section 5(1) of the Political Parties Order of 2002: “Every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan, shall have the right to form or be a member of a political party or be otherwise associated with a political party or take part in political activities or be elected as an office-bearer of a political party, provided that a person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being elected or chosen as a member of the majlis-i-shoora (parliament) under Article 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or under any other law for the time being in force.”

Politicians and bureaucrats have different opinions regarding dual citizenship. Some politicians believe that holding dual nationality is not a crime while many other think it questions one’s loyalty with the motherland. In Pakistan, holding dual nationality is a matter of concern particularly for those who hold public offices. Politicians who have dual nationalities are too often subject to political victimization here in Pakistan.