Quest of Indiscriminate Justice
09 August, 2011
By Amjad Malik
It is alarming to read the recent development in Pakistan where The Election Commission (ECP) & the Govt of Pakistan is considering imposition of new tighter regime on overseas Pakistanis whereby their right to vote, stand election, take public office and or governmental and judicial position may be curtailed forever. The background of anxiety is the July media reports talking about a ban announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan on the 4th of July 2011 on Overseas Pakistanis to be in the voter lists, hence disqualified to participate in any electioneering process.
Earlier on or around the 19th of April 2011 a Private Members Bill was presented whereby the act of holding dual nationality was condemned and an amendment was sought to ban those who hold dual nationality, foreign accounts and assets to be barred from voting and or contesting for public office. APL issued a statement terming the Bill unacceptable and opposed the bill. Association of Pakistani Lawyers, British Pakistani members of Parliament and EU have expressed their anxiety and Lawyers have made an urgent request to Chief Justice for intervention through Ďhuman Rights Cellí to stop this direct discrimination with a large group of 8 million overseas Pakistanis in public interest. Around 1 million Pakistanis alone of Pakistani origin currently are settled in Britain who are reading this development with alarm as they are of the view that desire of a small minority must not be imposed on the majority.
Overseas Pakistanis rightly raised voice for effective return of two exiled premiers to and now the time has come for this minority to rethink and canvass and march forward for their rights, and to obtain a rightful share to invest their mind and energy in national development. Pakistanis remain Pakistanis wherever they are, and due to existing geographical and ethnic cosmopolitan diversity, there is a little room to further alienate them by labelling them with any party or linkage of language, area, or sect. Having said that it was just and fair to continue to supporting civil society, media, lawyers & Pakistani politicians drive for democracy and for restoration of Constitution by lifting emergency once the politics was in exile, and the struggle was justified to assist the return of their beloved leaders to their homeland to continue their politics at home soil but time has come that now the exiled have returned and Constitution is restored along with an electoral process, the Overseas Pakistanis return to their original cause too and contribute in making Pakistan standing in the community of nations as a vibrant, progressive, tolerant and democratic state with rule of law & justice with free and responsible media as its salient features. Thatís the dream our founding father Barrister Mr. Jinnah saw for the Muslims of subcontinent. But the same contribution is restricted in an anti competitive style and fashion in fear or resentment in Pakistan.
Over 8 million overseas Pakistanis have a major role to play in the development of the country of their origin (Pakistan). They must take part in local political parties wherever they live and increase their representation in all houses of parliaments and civic centreís so that their local problems of employment, discrimination, housing, education and fair representation can be raised at the highest level. It will also help their country of origin too if they are stronger in those houses of Parliament in the time of need as was the case on 8th of October 2005 when an earthquake wiped many lives in Kashmir and Balakot and British Pakistani members of Parliament assisted UK Government to raise their aid & assistance from Lakhs to millions, and same was the case during floods in Pakistan in the fateful year of 2010. With the population they have in UK alone, the average seats in Parliament could be over 25 which currently stands at around 5 though the figure is very high as far as Jewish population is concerned though they are little in numbers as compared with us.
Secondly, Indian, Chinese and Jewish community do not have their party representations in overseas though all 3 communities too rely on the assistance of their overseas brain economically and intellectually and the level of nationalism is very high in them too. OPís must take part in activities of OPF (Overseas Pakistani foundation) Pakistan Society, Pakistan welfare Association and all charitable organisations to contribute in society here and abroad positively. However dozens of members of Parliament, Lords, EU and hundreds of Councillors and development in all sectors tell the story of progress of this hard working migrant community. However that does not mean that their rights are stripped back home only because they are residing overseas.
Currently holding NICOP (National Overseas Identity Card ) means they are considered foreigner forever which is an unacceptable proposition. Overseas Pakistanis who send billions of dollars and pounds in foreign exchange to economically aid their country of origin. In 2010 alone that remittance was over 11 billion dollars. They frequently visit their country of origin and face numerous problems when they live abroad and attempt to visit Pakistan such as Passport renewals, visa & Immigration, airline facility and ticketing problems, buying & selling land and its transfers & following illegal possessions, Voter Registration & and repatriation dreams. They always consider returning home for their old age at some point of their life but feel unwelcomed by the bureaucratic chain. That trend needs to be changed along with fuller cooperation from consulates and High Commissions truly making them public servants thus engaging the indigenous community irrespective of their views and encouraging them on shared objectives and giving them listening ears to their problems. Currently opposite view is nonexistent in our missions abroad, and Ďeither you are with us or you are also nonexistentí is a philosophy best suited to them. Criticism to bring about positive change is a sign of healthy society and that positive feedback needs to be given frequently on services, image building and relations with host country and the idea of target based performance needs to be encouraged at all levels.
However, all this requires a political package too, and over 8 million (80,00000) Overseas Pakistanis abroad and in particular around 1 million (100,000) in UK ( should be given a voice at the highest levels & forums, to start with a right to vote & designated seats in both houses of Parliament which will prevent them from indulging in politics back home and it will allow them to concentrate on feeding in their healthy suggestions & representations to their designated representatives who are of Pakistani origin in the houses of Parliament as their chosen, designated or specially appointed representatives as is the case in many countries and in particular the formula successfully working in Azad Kashmir.
British overseas citizens enjoy a right of vote which they exercised by post for many years in British elections from Hong Kong, & Europe. Overseas Pakistanis enjoyed their right to vote (or coercively used their opinion) in the Presidential referendum too in 2002 through foreign missions. Representation at Parliament will bring diversity blending it with mixture of knowledge, skill and public voice from overseas as Pakistanis abroad are hard working and value their motherland often more than their counterparts. In 2002, Musharraf Govt. gave women their rightful share in the makeup of national assembly and now is the turn for Pakistani population abroad whose financial contribution in ís development is without doubt the biggest in respect of foreign remittances. This will change colour and atmosphere of national assembly and senate and will encourage ex patriots to contribute in national politics through a proper channel rather than indulging in national politics sitting abroad.
Overseas Pakistanis should also be given due representation opportunity on the representational board of Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) and they should be accommodated as non executive directors of OPF and members of council of OPF too. This way they could truly bring in their first hand experience to the knowledge of OPF and Overseas Ministries with their experience from their respective country and geographical location as problems faced by an overseas Pakistani in gulf is quite opposite to the issues confronted by OPís in Western World and only opportunity to be represented at those legislative forums could be the way out to address their multi dimension problems and allow to make those bodies truly representational & functional which will help overseas Pakistanis to make proper representations on matters of mutual concerns to the right people at right forums which at the moment goes under the carpet.
Overseas Pakistanis are dying to contribute in their country of origin from investment to increasing commercial exports and from tourism attraction to building the image of Pakistan around the globe along with contributing financially but a befitting response is necessary to allow this one way traffic of love to make it dual carriage way as since 9/11 Pakistanis abroad despite all hardships continued supporting their homeland and are waiting for an affectionate hand on their shoulder by elders of state appreciating their input instead of alienating them. Chief Justice and decision makers in Pakistan are wooed to in the public interest to reconsider the position of overseas Pakistanis as the orders are considered to be in violation of the fundamental rights of these eight million people.
Overseas Pakistanis vehemently opposes the move to exclude dual national(s) and overseas Pakistanis who have assets abroad to stand for Parliament, they termed the move as directly discriminatory to the approximately 8 million persons serving the country overseas in violation of Article 25 of the 1973 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which fosters the equal treatment of all citizens irrespective of race, religion, nationality and colour. It is a majority view that prohibiting those who even hold a foreign bank account from contesting the elections would discard the eight million or so overseas Pakistanis who have technocracy, businesses, families and experience plus accounts overseas whom the wise men regard to be potential assets and a backbone for the nation in times of difficulty and in the future.
Pakistani Diaspora who send billions of dollars and pounds in foreign currency as an economic aid to their country of origin face numerous problems when they live abroad and attempt to visit and repatriate Pakistan, But these individuals are always voiceless in the Parliament as they have never been able to secure representation. These Pakistanis all hope at some point in their lives to return to Pakistan for their old age but they are made to feel unwelcome by the bureaucratic chain; this trend needs to be changed along with fuller cooperation from all stake holders. These arbitrary measures add insult to injury to those who contribute and bring money into the country and encourages those who plunder and squander funds to overseas destinations such as the UK, USA and Switzerland. I think after such a prohibition is implemented; the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will suffer in terms of economy as only last year around 11 billion(s) were remitted by OPís, development, knowledge and will no longer be able to compete with foreign Stateís nationals of its soil, and anti competitive status quo will remain and oppression of overseas Pakistanis will continue unhindered resulting in a brain drain as we witness currently.
The implementation of the prohibition will work to remove the fundamental rights of the approximately eight million Pakistani Diaspora that have been granted to them under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 (Art.25) that all are equal in the eyes of law, so when those are prohibited to use their fundamental rights we submit that amounts to discriminatory treatment without due process of law; That the eight million persons of Pakistani origin who reside abroad can be deprived of their fundamental rights exclusively for the reason of their residency in violation of Article 25 of the 1973 Constitution. The ban directly discriminate against the eight million over Overseas Pakistanis as they are left remediless which is in itself a violation of Articles 4, 5, 9, 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973; That such a prohibition is unlawful as there is no provision in law to justify such barring on the basis of residency. That it will be discouragement than encouragement of the overseas Pakistanis; That it will be arbitrary to reduce the statues of overseas Pakistanis without consultation and due process; That other countries where equal right movements are in motion for Pakistani nationals will suffer greatly if those fighting for civil rights are discriminated back home in Pakistan in an uncivilised fashion. For example UK alone has over 12 members of both houses of Parliament, House of Lords, EU. Renowned Ch M Sarwar, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham being the pioneers to enter Parliament in late 1990ís. Rt. Hon. Sajjad Karim MEP a lawyer represent Pakistani nationals in European Parliament along with hundreds of councillors in UK alone. If this practice is not checked here, argument will arise why other countries should treat them with equal rights when OPís are considered lesser citizens at home where they have by birth rights.
Overseas Pakistanis prayed that Govt of the day and Election Commission has in defiance of the observation and or orders of the court(s) removed first the voting right, then the right to contest for public office and now wishes to brand the eight million or so persons as second class citizens unworthy to speak in matters relating to Pakistan without reason, and or issue; and it has been rightly prayed that their rights are revived by a declaratory judgement; if not the eight million overseas Pakistanis will lose their right to private enjoyment to cast vote, contest election and stand for public office which would happen if these enactments come into force and or if already in force, and a certiorari, prohibitory and mandamus orders are prayed to cease such arbitrary, discriminatory treatment facilitating equal rights and treatment to all Pakistanis at soil or abroad. Overseas Pakistanis are in quest of a court order that branding them second class citizens and cloning them via NICOP card will not be in accordance with the law and will not be deemed necessary in a democratic society and in the interests of national security, and it will not be against the spirit of the prevention of disorder or crime, or against the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
All at sundry must foster a true path that none may directly or indirectly obstruct, hamper or resist the overseas Pakistanis route to Pakistan and may not remove the rights of the Overseas Pakistanis to cast vote and stand for election unless and until individual remedy is given at the office of the election commission that a direction may be issued to the Federation to facilitate the registration of all overseas Pakistanis who are Pakistanis by birth, have acquired Pakistani citizenship and or hold NICOP card for the purpose of casting their vote and or contesting for public office. Govt and opposition must facilitate the representation of the eight million overseas Pakistani in both Houses of Parliament and provinces according to their numbers, in line with the scheme that is operational in Azad Jammu and Kashmir as both enjoy their hospitality abroad. At least they must be consulted on action which directly take away their rights, as that is prerequisite of any enactment to ensure due process. Arbitrary decisions seldom carry weight.
Overseas Pakistanis voice of quality is rarely presented in those houses where decisions are made. If we look at European Convention of Human Rights such proposals are unlikely to get a validity under article 14 of ECHR which says, ďThe enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this convention shall be secured without discrimination on any grounds, such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with the national minority, property, birth or other status.Ē Article 25 of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan clearly ensures equal treatment of all commodities irrespective of their race, religion, colour or nationality. Message is clear that any public authority not to act contrary to Constitution and or tenants of the (ECHR 1950) Human Rights Convention as being incompatible with the Overseas Pakistaniís Convention rights.
This is the testing times for Pakistani origin member(s), community leaders and public office holders and members of Parliament and politicians to be vigilant as support may suffer if in their reign British Pakistanis come to suffer these draconian regimes arbitrarily and discriminately as there has already been much discussion on their immigration reforms which are creating hardships to migrant community whether it is visa fees, new laws on marriage, and settlement tenure. Statement in House of Parliament by Prime Minister and or Foreign Secretary may be the way forward to assure those who are worried. I am quite optimistic that Supreme Courtís Human Right Cellí, Prime Ministerís overseas Pakistanis grievances cellí and or former Prime Minister and opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharifís party forum will assure with a strong statement or a declaratory judgement which has become a public demand with a surety of indiscriminate Ďjusticeí with Overseas Pakistanis.