Dueling about dual nationality

By Parveen Tarique

Given the state of the land of the pure where there is no water, electricity, gas, no law and order, and the army gets caught in the crosshairs of snipers and militants, and fall like nine pins, the powers that be are pushing for bills, like the contempt bill and the proposed dual nationality bill. Reports indicate that the contempt bill has sailed through, and dual nationality has the parliamentarians, and the elite class wondering what all the fuss is about. While the common citizen wonders what sin s/he has committed to be deprived of the basic necessities of life.

However, history tells us that in 1951, The Pakistan Citizenship Act underwent amendments, because the original Act appeared incomplete, so the Pakistan Citizenship Rules 1952 were introduced. In 1971 Pakistan and Bangladesh separated and citizenship needed to be readdressed again for that time, and Kashmir an ongoing conflict, needed to be addressed in the Act as well. And amendments are still taking place.

Since independence, several changes in the Pakistani nationality law have come about because of the growth of expatriate Pakistani communities in the Middle East, Europe and North America. Dual citizenship was not permitted under the 1951 law, but now the Government of Pakistan recognizes and allows citizens to hold citizenship of 16 countries which are, UK, Italy, France, Belgium, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and the land of opportunity USA.

Fast forward to the recent scenario; had a move not been made against Farahnaz Isphani, media advisor to President Asif Ali Zardari, Hussain Haqqani’s wife, as being a dual national, Pakistan and USA, and a MNA to boot, perhaps things might have been different. But, then the news, that our man for all seasons, Mr. Rehman Malik, is also a dual national, in this case Pakistan and UK was revealed, and with all the stories he spun, he has not given up his British passport. Slowly all hell is breaking loose, with conspiracy theories making the round. (Recent reports indicate that he has given up his UK nationality and has been ‘elected’ to the Senate from Sindh.)

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.” Disqualification on this ground is part of our 1973 Constitution. The argument put forth is that one cannot wear two hats. You are either loyal to the country of your origin, or to the country whose citizenship you have acquired by swearing on the Bible to allegiance to the Queen, or the star spangled banner as the case maybe, and also take up arms in case of war.

Decades ago, Pakistan experienced brain drain, with our best bidding adieu to their families and moving to greener pastures. They settled there, and remitted money back home. Some came back, could not adjust, and went back. Some refer to the dual nationality, Pakistan-UK, as a soft stance on UK’s part, since monies; big monies are being transferred to its shores. And should things turn dicey here they can easily high tail it to the country whose passport they have. Things couldn’t be better for the dual nationals; they have butter on both sides of their bread and still crave for more.

Those who belong to the upper class, the elitist amongst us, say why not. Those who are dual nationals have their own agenda. They want to sit in the Houses of Parliament, enjoy all the trappings, and stash their ‘hard earned money’ abroad. Here they don’t bother about paying taxes, pull all the strings they can, and if they sneeze three times they zoom off to get themselves checked. They lord it over us common citizens, not realizing that we are the backbone of this country. We till the soil, thereby helping to generate crops, take up backbreaking jobs and help to sustain all, and receive thanks occasionally.

One argument between the lines is that such persons, who are vying to become parliamentarians, and privy to various state secrets, should be permitted to do so. The logic behind this thought is that should such a situation arise with another country, these dual nationals would be a great help at the negotiating table. Another argument making the round is that if the overseas Pakistanis have the right to vote, therefore they should be allowed to contest elections to become parliamentarians. This argument has elicited pro and against arguments, evident in the writings of our learned columnists.

Not too long ago, Moeen Qureshi and Shaukat Aziz, both holders of dual nationality were Prime Ministers. Where was the Election Commission then? Granted that Moeen Qureshi was the caretaker Prime Minister who was flown in, and flew out once the job was done, but what about Shaukat Aziz who also flew in? The million dollar question is, why the Supreme Court has at this point of time, issued a wake up call to the Election Commission to examine papers thoroughly. Why now? Is it to point out that the Election Commission has been sleeping on the job, or were behind the scene strings pulled? Has the scenario changed so drastically that there are fears, that God forbid could undermine the sovereignty of this land of ours? That somebody, somewhere will sell us under the table? However, another notable writer fears that those parliamentarians/elitists, who support the dual nationality bill, would be responsible for placing the country under a defacto foreign rule. Then there are those who argue that Pakistan has already been given ‘thakay par’ (on contract) to Uncle Sam, and they argue that the question of defacto rule is already in place.

However, back to the expats, one cannot doubt the financial contribution made by the expats who of late expect the doors of elected office to be open for them. Thanks to globalization, and considerable movement of people across borders in search of better opportunities, nationality and identity have become relatively less rigid, posing the question, why does one assume that they have turned their back on the homeland. Dual nationality has stirred up a hornet’s nest, and some are getting stung, and arguments to and for are continuing in the print media and the electronic media. Who will win is anybody’s guess. (ENDS)

The author is a former news editor of a leading English daily.

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