The case of duelling loyalties
It all began on May 8, 2012 when Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Secretary National Assembly and Secretary Senate to submit a list of members of the parliament holding dual nationality.
Farahnaz Ispahani, wife of the former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, was the first senator to fall prey to the ruling of Supreme Court of Pakistan for holding dual citizenship under Article 63 (1) (c) of the Constitution of Pakistan which states that a person is disqualified to hold public office if they ‘cease’ to be a Pakistani citizen or ‘acquire’ an additional nationality.
On May 25, 2012, Ispahani’s senate membership was suspended. The court ruled that Ispahani could not partake in the proceedings of the National Assembly or participate in any of the committees of its committees.
Whilst suspending Ispahani’s senate membership, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that if parliamentarians were not prevented from holding dual nationality then the influx of imported premiers would continue. He went on to question the ‘loyalty’ of dual nationals and criticised their acts.
The ruling jeopardised senate membership of many politicians including the former minister for interior, Rehman Malik, who was next in queue. Rehman, who is considered to hold British nationality, claimed that he had renounced his British nationality, however, was unable to produce evidence to support his claim. The Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended his senate membership on June 4, 2012.
After suspending Rehman’s membership, the Supreme Court also sought replies from 14 parliamentarians to provide evidence for their nationalities including Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch, as well as PML-N MNAs Khawaja Asif and Anoushey Rehman.
Khawaja Asif, Anoushey Rahman, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Zahid Iftikhar, Tariq Mehmood and Sabir Baloch firmly denied the charges of holding dual citizenship after which the applicants who levelled the charges against the aforementioned politicians apologised and retracted their accusations.
On June 5, Rehman was reappointed as the adviser to the prime minister on interior, with the status of federal minister.
The judicial fire-ball then came rolling down after legislators Amna Buttar and Muhammad Akhlaq, both members of the Punjab Assembly, and Ahmed Ali Shah, a member of the Sindh Assembly, on June 13, 2012.
The court’s order, regarding the suspension of aforementioned senators, stated that, “”Prima facie we are satisfied that they are not qualified to hold the membership of provincial assemblies. Therefore their status as member of provincial assemblies of Punjab and Sindh is hereby suspended.”
On June 25, 2012, Zahid Iqbal, another senator from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) joined the club of suspended senators. Iqbal, who was elected from Sahiwal constituency, was ordered to show his passport as evidence in the court. His failure, to follow the instructions, resulted in his suspension.
The senate membership of Jamil Malik Awan of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) was suspended on July 3, 2012.
A day later, the Supreme Court suspended memberships of Muhtahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) MNA, Farhat Mahmood and MPA, Nadia Gabol.
However, what remains important to be noted is that PML-N and PPP, which have been embroiled in a constant battle and possessed opposing views on the judiciary from the beginning of judicial crisis, on July 4, unanimously supported the bill allowing the dual nationals of the country to participate in next general elections.