Kanwar Dilshad |
The government has decided to allow dual nationality holders to contest elections and be part of the electoral process. In my opinion this is not a wise decision as the country’s rules book does not allow dual nationality citizens to hold public office and government employees even cannot marry a dual national.
The reasons are obvious. Dual nationals can easily avoid criminal charges in Pakistan. Besides they can transfer their wealth abroad and avoid taxes. I feel the government should rescind this decision.
Our country is the world’s fifth most populated nation. We do not need dual nationals to take this country forward. Only dedicated citizens willing to give their all for Pakistan can do so.
The apex court held that such individuals employed in the service of Pakistan are a threat to the country’s interests. Such an outlook can be criticized as erring too greatly on the side of caution.
Dual nationality can be a tricky issue when it comes to the right to stand for election, inevitably bringing up questions of divided loyalties and conflict of interest.
Perhaps buoyed by US-based Pakistanis’ enthusiastic reception of Prime Minister Imran Khan during his trip to America, the government has decided to extend dual nationals the right to contest elections in this country.
The cabinet has set up a high-powered committee to chalk out a roadmap for the purpose. To translate the proposal into reality, a constitutional amendment will be needed: Article 63 (1)(c) holds that a person acquiring the citizenship of a foreign state is ineligible for election to parliament.
A comprehensive debate is also in order. This is an emotive issue due to historical and cultural contexts peculiar to Pakistan, and its pros and cons must be carefully weighed by parliament.
The prime minister has often expressed his faith in overseas Pakistanis’ capacity to contribute to the country’s progress, specifically its economy. In recent years, the issue of dual nationals in public office has cropped up several times, with public and legal opinions tending towards a narrow — some would say too narrow — interpretation of the above-cited constitutional bar.
In December last year, for instance, the Supreme Court ordered the federal and provincial governments to set a deadline for bureaucrats with dual nationalities to either give up their foreign citizenship or lose their jobs. The apex court held that such individuals employed in the service of Pakistan are a threat to the country’s interests. Such an outlook can be criticized as erring too greatly on the side of caution.
The opposing point of view holds that most overseas Pakistanis retain strong ties with their country of origin and should be given the chance to participate fully in its political process. One could also posit that, sad to say, among these immigrants are many of our best and brightest, and were they legally allowed to stand for election, they could add to the quality of representation of the Pakistani people. Nevertheless, if the PTI government’s proposal does materialize, perhaps an exception could be made in the case of cabinet ministers who are bound by an oath of secrecy.
Pakistan must fully utilize their expertise to put this country on the path to prosperity and progress.
On overseas Pakistanis being able to exercise their right of franchise, however, there is across-the-board consensus and a legal provision in the Elections Act, 2017. The hurdle lies in devising a system that ensures efficacy, security and secrecy. Although the e-voting pilot project undertaken by the ECP under pressure from the Supreme Court in by-elections last year went smoothly, the response was extremely tepid.
Of the overseas Pakistanis eligible to vote in the constituencies where the by-polls were being held, only a little over 1pc registered to cast their ballot. And from among these, on polling day itself, 15pc did not exercise their right of franchise.
Prime Minister Imran Khan received a historic welcome by Pakistani expatriates in Washington. It is probably the warm welcome that persuaded our prime minister to think about the inclusion of overseas Pakistanis in the state’s political and policy-making process.
Opponents of the idea argue that such individuals might have a conflict of interest inimical to our state. We need to realize that the Pakistani diaspora in the West includes some of the best and brightest individuals our country has produced. Pakistan must fully utilize their expertise to put this country on the path to prosperity and progress.
Kunwar Dilshad is the former federal Secretary to the Election Commission of Pakistan and worked in the constitutional institution for over 30 years. He is currently the chairperson for the National Democratic Foundation. He can be contacted at: email@example.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.