Last updated on July 28th, 2019 at 06:46 pm
The federal cabinet on Thursday approved allowing dual citizenship Pakistanis to participate in the elections, but legal and constitutional experts say the government is not in a position to implement the decision because it conflicts with two constitutional Clause.
While briefing journalists about the cabinet decisions overnight, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the Prime Minister wants overseas Pakistanis to take an interest in the country’s affairs and guide the country; therefore, a high-level committee has been set up to give suggestions on their participation in the elections and to become a Member of Parliament.
Amendment to the Constitution is compulsory!
Legal and constitutional experts, on the other hand, believe that the constitution has to be amended to implement the cabinet decision.
Speaking to The Citizen, Ali Zafar, a former minister of law and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said that it had been clarified in the 62nd and 63rd clause of the constitution that a member of Pakistan’s Parliament must be a citizen of Pakistan.
Article 62-A of the Constitution states that only a Pakistani citizen will be eligible to become a Member of Parliament while Article 63-C states that a person who obtains citizenship of another country will be disqualified for membership of Parliament.
According to Ali Zafar, he had argued in the Supreme Court for clarification of these clauses and said that since dual citizenship was recognized in the Pakistan Citizenship Act, such persons should be eligible to participate in the elections and become members of the Parliament. However, the Supreme Court rejected these arguments, explaining that according to the constitution, a person with dual citizenship cannot be a Member of Parliament.
Zafar said, “Government would have to amend the constitution to implement the recent cabinet decision, which requires a two-thirds majority of parliament.”
It should be remembered that at present, the government has only a simple majority in the National Assembly, while there is no simple majority in the Senate.
Former Pakistani Election Commission secretary Kanwar Dilshad says the government will have to change the constitutional infrastructure to implement the cabinet decision. And according to a Supreme Court decision, doing so is beyond the power of the Legislative Assembly. “Only a new Constituent Assembly can make such a decision by a two-thirds majority,” said Dilshad.
Iqama and dual citizenship
It is to be noted that the present ruling party had submitted petitions against some members of the Muslim League-Nawaz for keeping the Iqama (residential permit) of the Gulf countries.
On the petition of PTI leader Usman Dar, Muslim League-N leader Khawaja Asif was disqualified for holding Dubai’s work permit, but the Supreme Court dismissed his disqualification on Khawaja Asif’s appeal. Prime Minister Imran Khan and a number of cabinet members have also criticized former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif for holding a Dubai’s work permit.
According to Kanwar Dilshad, if one can be disqualified for holding work permit then dual citizenship is something beyond that. “Work permit is obtained only for employment while the citizenship of another country is obtained by taking an oath of allegiance to that country,” Dilshad added.
Former Secretary says many of the Prime Minister’s cabinet members are technocrat which holds dual citizenship. However, in the current state of domestic security, it is not advisable to allow dual citizens to become members of Parliament.
Supreme Court’s Decisions on Dual Citizenship
However, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has recently disqualified two PML-N senators Saadia Abbasi and Haron Akhtar for having dual citizenship.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, last December allowed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader and PM’s Special Assistant for overseas Pakistanis Zulfiq Bukhari to work despite dual citizenship.
The former Chief Justice remarked, “We are declaring that he is not a minister. Special Assistant does not have dual citizenship restrictions.”
The dual citizenship of public servants is a threat to the country
In December last year, a two-member bench headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Mian Saqib Nisar ordered action against employees having foreign citizenship. The court had declared civilian civil servants as a threat to the national interest and ordered federal and provisional governments to do legislation on dual citizenship.
The court ruled that the federal and provincial governments should legislate on the matter and relevant governments should give a deadline to employees to quit their jobs or leave dual citizenship.
The detailed decision also provided details of officers with dual citizenship and foreign nationals, according to which, there are 1,166 officers with dual citizenship and foreign citizenship across the country. However, the wives of 1,249 officers have dual citizenship and foreign citizenship.