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Dual Nationality a moral crime or a sin

27 June, 2012

By Amjad Malik


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The proactive case study in Pakistan has ignited a debate in Pakistan and abroad whether 'Dual Nationality' is a permissible moral crime or an unforgiveable sin. Court seems to be confused if we read their observations, and short commands. They are looking at the 'faces' before them, may be notorious, or unwanted if I may say so, and the likes of 'Memo' case before them. They are also mindful of the contribution of overseas Pakistanis, hence relaying mixed messages to all around whilst hearing the petition of 'debarring' duals.

Senator Rehman Malik is good or bad aside, if he plunders money, loot the public wealth, park his slashed funds overseas and deny his oath, he must be punished through normal criminal justice system, and must be hunted down, barred from leaving Pakistan through a robust 'Exit control list'. If system is so corrupt and poorly managed then 'runner' is going to leave on a visitor's visa . For those on hit and run mission, a dual nationality is not required to ruin with gold and cash. Article 63 (1) (c) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 rightly advocate that a person is disqualified to hold public office if he 'ceases' his original or 'acquires' an additional nationality. Practice though remained to the contrary. Supreme Court too never interpreted in the past against those holding offices of public representations, bureaucracy, military and/or judiciary. Let alone Pakistani hierarchy there are eight million souls overseas who are advocating in favour of opening gates for them as they too think world has become a global village and interests have diverged to an extent that rather than nationality, services are must be commanded on the basis of skill & experience in an anti competitive fashion. Best man fit for the job gets the job than fill in the blank. Pakistan must not be closing the doors for their own with brilliance in aid of 'status quo' and 'monopoly' in violation of the Art.25 of the same constitution. On one hand SC rightly is decreeing to allow them a right to vote and on the other interpreting as to disqualify them from holding public office. It's like they can see food but cannot eat or in a lighter sense marry a girl but can't have a 'rukhsati' or children.

One core issue central to discussion is the 'due processes'. I have been reading it carefully and until 2008 elections there was no anxious scrutiny of the 'dual status' or 'nationality' of contestants. If Election Commission failed to implement the law properly and never robustly auctioned, restrained, stopped, explained through public awareness campaign, then how come those elected can be barred, suspended or forbidden to continue to hold those offices until properly notified of the intention of election machinery. Why they must pay for the contributory negligence of the Chief Election Commissioner who failed to apprehend, warn and check their elections. Due process requires a notice, and choice of either retains dual nationality status or public representation position. Those requirements have never been met, and SC is insisting on changing the 'goal post'.

One argument is frequently heard that those 'duals' are 'fair weather' friends, and they come when the grass is green, and leave sooner the meadow is suffering from the drought. That to me is a beggar's belief looking at the foreign remittances which fill the gap between income and expenditures of Pakistan. Only that materialistic lot come and go who leave Pakistan with public wealth and return on the basis of those slashed funds. If genuine Overseas Pakistanis are counted, one can count on fingers as they are one in a million who came to serve.

Truly speaking, they are not allowed that luxury yet, its Pakistanis who are returning as wolves in sheep clothing as 'Shakeel Afridi' was never a dual national so were not those who let 'Raymond Davis' go. Overseas Pakistanis are not yet allowed or welcomed. Those in possession of National Identity Card for overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) are neither allowed to cast vote nor can be in voter's list or contest elections on account of their 'habitual residence' test being domiciled abroad. They can only come and go freely, open bank, and buy or sell 'land' which mostly is captured by 'land mafia' or relatives. If anyone came to serve truly, was Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan who too was a dual national, so was his family and he inaugurated Pakistan's atomic programme all others were political refugees returning to make hay while the sun shines. It's also funny that Judiciary thinks that those dual nationals cannot contest on account of their foreign nationality, but those who give those tickets can happily hold the 'additional' status and can head parties and hold governorship freely. No one challenges them as 'wings' burn when high ups are criticised.

The contribution of the overseas Pakistanis is such that they must be assimilated through a consultative process where they are valued than denied being part of the process. 13 billion a year remittance and healthy output potential force me to say that these 8 million souls one day will save Pakistan. One or two rotten eggs are forcing Supreme Court to make a decision unwanted and unacceptable to those millions overseas who are yearning to come, serve, and save Pakistan. The amount of Doctors, specialists, engineers, lawyers and new youth representatives from top universities are emerging as a fresh fodder ready to be exploited in national cause and interest and denying them an opportunity may not be conducive in the supreme national interest of Pakistan.

Britain alone is housing hundreds of councillors, and around a dozen Parliamentarians in both houses of Parliament. Unless someone holds a nationality of a rival country like India and Israel, these additional qualification holders from commonwealth are not enemies. They are as friendly as the states which deal with Pakistan unless their oath of allegiance is tested on the altar of 'war'. At that time both countries are free to put their citizens to that task, and may legislate in emergency to put their citizen to test, and pose a question either,'with us' or 'against'. We are not yet at that bridge to pose such 'silly' questions. If Pakistan start treating its own origin and born nationals with contempt, doubt and resentment, how come their overseas export will seek further rights from Britain, Americans or west on account of their minority rights. Britain may turn around to champions of minority rights that you must seek equal rights back home first, as those who are 'cheap' at home are not sold 'high' overseas. It will be an ideal fodder for political campaign for 'British national Party' who wishes the ouster of all Pakistanis from its soil.

Parliament of Pakistan must legislate quickly to end this debate by allowing those to continue hold the flag that have dual nationality and have never declared to renounce or cease Pakistani status. Before joining Parliament a procedural changes may be brought to surrender foreign passport to Election Commission to be used once a position is vacated by an office holder but that process must be maintained with clarity, honesty and open declaration of interest & conflict, as mind you, we have yet to root out forged degree holders in the Parliament who are there all because of the lack of infrastructure to teeth them out, and they are not dual nationals either.

Finally, decision is on Pakistan to reject, or value & welcome an offer of true & sincere contribution by their children abroad. SC did not de-seat the President despite his election with a Dogar LJ ruling which suspended the constitutional requirement of having a degree to contest. Supreme Court alone must not bar a group of people (around 8 million) who have never been told not to assume or acquire foreign status otherwise they will risk becoming third class citizens of Pakistan, and will be no more genuine 'Pakistani.' Unless that notice is served, let those people remain in fallacy that they still belong to their 'motherland.'


Barrister Amjad Malik is a chair of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK)

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