11 other legislators in the same boat: Malik to face trial over false oath
ISLAMABAD, Sept 24: Interior Minister Rehman Malik is among the lawmakers who are to face criminal proceedings for filing false declarations along with their nomination papers for elections to conceal their dual nationality.
On Sept 20, the Supreme Court disqualified 11 members of parliament and provincial assemblies, but spared Mr Malik for the time being. The only sentence the minister received was a court observation that he could not be considered sagacious, righteous, honest and ameen.
Mr Malik’s name on the list of people holding dual nationality sparked widespread curiosity about his future. But he defended his case by claiming before the Supreme Court that he had wrapped up his UK business in 2008 and surrendered his British nationality on the directives of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and President Asif Ali Zardari.
But he could not satisfy the court and was asked to provide documentary evidence in support of his claim. Finally, his Senate membership was suspended by the court in the first week of June, but practically it made no difference because he was appointed adviser to the prime minister with the status and powers of federal minister. Mr Malik changed his stance and said he had applied for renunciation of his British citizenship a long time ago but could not get the approval letter from the British Home office. He surprised many by resigning his Senate seat, but regained it a few days later. This time he was in possession of documents about renunciation of his British nationality.
But in its Sept 20 verdict, the apex court noted that at the time of filing nomination papers for Senate elections in 2008 Mr Malik had made a false declaration that he did not hold the nationality of a foreign country.
Addressing a press conference on Monday after a meeting of the Election Commission, its secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan said that under Article 63 (1) (C) of the Constitution, holders of dual nationality could not get elected or continue as members of parliament or provincial assemblies.
He said legal proceedings would be instituted against the 12 legislators, including Mr Malik, for submitting false declarations and thus committing corrupt practices under Section 78 of the Representation of the People Act, 1976, read with sections 82 of the act, and sections 193, 196, 197, 198 and 199 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Their cases will be sent to the concerned sessions courts for trial.
Answering a question, Mr Khan said Rehman Malik continued to be a Senator and Interior Minister because he had not been de-notified. He said the commission had de-notified the 11 legislators in compliance with the court’s orders which said nothing about de-notification of Rehman Malik.
He said Mr Malik’s case was different because he claimed that he had applied to renounce his British nationality when he was elected to the Senate in 2008. He also resigned from Senate and contested again to regain the seat.
But the ECP secretary said Mr Malik still faced the charge of mis-declaration at the time of filing nomination papers in 2008. He said that under the law the Senate chairman was supposed to refer disqualification reference against Rehman Malik to the Election Commission within 30 days and if it was not done within that period it would be considered to have been received.
Mr Khan said the legislators convicted of corrupt practices were ineligible to contest elections for five years. He said the meeting discussed a number of issues relating to upcoming general elections and the SC verdict on dual citizenship.
It observed that the commission had been making hectic efforts for two years to get information about dual nationality of members of parliament and provincial assemblies from secretaries of the legislatures. But it regretted that the secretariats of parliament and provincial assemblies were yet to provide the required information.
Mr Khan said that in compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders, the commission would write fresh letters to the secretaries seeking fresh declarations from all legislators, including those who did not hold dual nationality.
The commission also discussed schedules for by-elections to the seats falling vacant after disqualification of the 11 legislators by the apex court.
The PML-N has suffered the most as a result of the disqualifications, with five of the 11 legislators belonging to it. They are: MNA Jamil Ahmad Malik and MPAs Mohammad Akhlaq, Chaudhry Wasim Qadir, Dr Mohammad Ashraf Chohan and Chaudhry Nadeem Khadim.
The PPP lost four legislators — MNAs Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal and Farah Naz Ispahani and MPAs Amna Buttar and Dr Ahmad Ali Shah.
The disqualified legislators belonging to the MQM are MAN Farhat Mehmood Khan and MPA Nadia Gabol.
The Election Commission recently proposed an amendment to the form prescribed for filing annual statements of assets and liabilities by legislators to include information whether or not they hold a foreign passport. This will help the commission to obtain the requisite information on a continuous basis. The proposal is pending with the president for approval.