Dual Nationality and Divided loyalty

The issue of dual nationality to the members of the Parliament should be examined considering national interest rather than the personal interest of few members of the parliament.

The 22nd Constitution Amendment Bill is being rightly criticised and opposed both by the treasury and opposition benches in the Senate, as well as outside the parliament. The Bill seeks to undo what the constitution presently prohibits in unequivocal terms. Before allowing dual nationality to the members of the parliament, our legislature and executive both must examine the issue from national interest rather than the personal interest of few members of the parliament.

Article 63(1)(c) of our constitution clearly disqualifies a person from being elected and from being a member of the parliament if ‘he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state.’ The disqualification of members of the parliament on this ground is part of our 1973 Constitution. It seems that this Article 63(1)(c) was not invoked earlier than the era of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, perhaps because it was unthinkable for the holders of constitutional offices in Pakistan to acquire nationality of other countries as they had unshakable faith and confidence in the country. It may be relevant to mention an incident of my life that when the ‘Wajibul Qatal Fatwa’ was pronounced by some biased imprudent bigots against me for the first time in 1994, while I was the federal law minister, the then High Commissioner of Canada was so concerned that she expressed a gesture of humanity, sympathy and support, and had offered me to become Canadian national for the protection of my family and myself. I politely declined this offer, as it was a matter of shame and embarrassment for me to accept any other nationality being the federal law minister of Pakistan or even thereafter.

There are at least two distinct categories of dual nationality holders. One is those who had left Pakistan in search of better vocation of life. So the brain drain of our talented, educated citizens had started from the decade of ’70s. These Pakistanis are now well settled in different foreign countries for the past several decades. Their love and concern for the country is beyond any doubt as they have been sustaining our economy by remittances of billions of dollars. Due to their interest in the affairs of the country on their demand, they were granted the right to vote in the general elections. Now some of them are aspiring to be in the Houses of Parliament of Pakistan.

The second category of the dual nationality holders are those rich and famous elitist class of opportunist who are continuing to mint billions or trillions from the resources of Pakistan but have chosen to hold dual nationality of other countries to secure their uncountable wealth, life and properties. By their decision this category is not only exposing their own lack of faith and confidence in the integrity of our country but also spread the same sense of insecurity among the deprived masses. It is this second category, which is keener to remove the prohibition against dual nationality, so that they may continue to influence or control all the constitutional institutions and multiply their wealth and in the event of any serious crisis in the country they can seek refuge abroad.

Article 63(1)(c) of our constitution clearly disqualifies a person from being elected and from being a member of the parliament if ‘he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state’
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One of the critical irreconcilable aspect of the dual nationality is that it is a precondition imposed by the laws of most countries for grant of nationality to an applicant only if he takes oath of (a) loyalty and patriotism, to the new country; (b) allegiance to the head of the State, constitution, laws and customs of the new country; and (c) fulfil duties as a citizen of that new country. Some countries particularly United States have prescribed Oath of Citizenship, which has much wider serious implications, inter alia, (a) that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; (b) that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (c)that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law.’

Similarly, even in the United Kingdom the scope of the Citizenship Oath was expanded from January 1, 2004 to further emphasise that I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen. Debate in the United Kingdom is still continuing to prescribe much more stringent conditions for grant of citizenship and to amplify Oath of Citizenship, etc.

Such preconditions clearly mean that the applicant for US citizenship has to surrender his original nationality. I may warn holders of US citizenship that if he or she has not done so, they will be guilty of breach of Oath of US Citizenship, which may render them disqualified to be citizen of the USA as well. Please also note that such preconditions for grant of citizenship particularly of the United States may practically make it impossible to continue to hold Pakistani nationality after acquiring nationality of the United States.

These Pakistanis are now well settled in different foreign countries for the past several decades. Their love and concern for the country is beyond any doubt as they have been sustaining our economy by remittances of billions of dollars.
May I also point out that members of parliament holding dual nationality will suffer from un-condonable and unacceptable conflict of loyalty and national interest against Pakistan. Hence, they have to be disqualified not only from being member of parliament but in my opinion this prohibition in the nature of Article 63(1)(c) should be enforced on all holders of offices in all institutions of Pakistan, may it be parliament, judiciary, executive or in our arm forces. Please note that holders of all constitutional offices are obliged to take oath as prescribed under Third Schedule of our constitution, which, inter alia, demands commitment to true faith and allegiance to Pakistan; discharge of duties and functions in accordance with the constitution and the laws, and to always act in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan, etc. Similar or even wider are the provisions of Citizenship Oath of other countries as mentioned above. Hence, the old proverb that one cannot sail in two boats at a time is very much applicable. The contents of the oath of office under our constitution and the contents of the citizenship oaths of many foreign countries are clearly in conflict with each other and could be interpreted to have committed breach of both of their oaths.
The argument that ‘if the overseas Pakistanis have a right to give votes in the general elections, therefore they should be allowed to contest election to become member of the Parliament, is misconceived and untenable. An ordinary voter while casting his vote is not required to take oath as prescribed by our constitution or to discharge duties and functions of the constitutional office that he may hold after his election. Hence, there is no logical comparison between the two positions. The requirements of the two are entirely different. There are detailed list of qualification and disqualifications of the members of Parliament, under Article 62 and 63, which are not applicable to an ordinary voter. The qualifications of a voter are very simple and few as prescribed under Article 51(1). In this case also entitlement to vote is subject to the paramount condition of Citizenship of Pakistan. If any Pakistani renounces and abjure his Pakistani nationality for securing nationality of a foreign country, then he loses the right to cast his vote.

There is another vital requirement that a Member of Parliament must remain in touch and be available to the people of his constituency. Remote control politics may have been the unique privilege of one of the political leader, but this undesirable practice cannot be encouraged. Like the practice of absentee landlords is most undesirable, so is the new trend of the absentee members of the Parliament who visit more frequently country of their new nationality, rather than their constituency.

By: Iqbal Haider Senator (retd)

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