ISLAMABAD, July 10: The government introduced in the Senate on Tuesday a bill proposing to allow holders of dual nationality to be elected to parliament, but it annoyed both its friends and foes.
Objections to the 22nd Constitution Amendment Bill were raised by members from both sides of the aisle, with Law Minister Farooq H. Naek being the lone voice in its favour.
The bill was referred to the standing committee concerned amid protests by members who wanted the chair to ascertain if a majority wanted to block the process. The move prompted the Awami National Party (ANP) to walk out of the house and it was joined by the PML-N.
The bill seeks to amend Article 63 (1) (C) of the Constitution. The proposed amendment reads: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the parliament, if — he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or has acquired citizenship of a foreign state, except a state with which the federal government has a dual nationality arrangement under the law, before or after the commencement of the constitution (twenty second amendment) Act, 2012”.
Law Minister Naek justified the amendment and said there was no reason for banning overseas Pakistanis from becoming members of parliament when they already enjoy the right to vote.
He said there were 16 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland, with which Pakistan had an agreement on dual nationality.
He said that over 90 per cent of the Pakistanis who had acquired foreign nationality had done so for the sake of employment and business.
“There is no reason to doubt their allegiance to Pakistan,” he remarked. He said they wanted to take active part in the country’s politics.
He said if some members of the house had reservations over the bill, it was their right.
“These concerns must be addressed before the passage of the bill. This is essence of democracy.”
But PPP stalwarts Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and Mian Raza Rabbani said they wondered how the American citizens of Pakistan origin could be allowed to become members of parliament after having pledged to even take up arms under the oath of US citizenship.
Col (retd) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of the MQM said: “We also have reservations over the bill”, but this was not the time to go into merits and demerits of the bill.
He said the bill should be sent to the standing committee concerned and pointed out that it could not be bulldozed because it was a constitutional amendment which required a two third majority.
Raja Zafarul Haq of PML-N said that Moeen Qureshi and Shaukat Aziz had become prime ministers of Pakistan but left the country after their rule was over.
He asked the government not to blacken its face in order to save a handful of lawmakers with dual nationality.
Haji Adeel of ANP asked if holders of dual nationality could contest elections in the countries they had settled in.
“If they want to take part in country’s politics, they should renounce their nationality after winning the election and before taking oath,” he said.
Syed Zafar Ali Shah of PML-N said the bill would be opposed both inside and outside the parliament.
He said external interference in Pakistan had increased because of Pakistanis holding dual nationality.
SALE OF LAND BY NAVY: Minister of State Sardar Saleem Haider promised to provide details of unauthorised sale of land by the Pakistan Navy leased to it by the Capital Development Authority.
The issue was raised by Senator Farhatullah Babar through a call attention notice.
He did not press the matter after the assurance given by the minister.
The house will meet again on Wednesday.