ISLAMABAD, Oct 13: The Senate’s committee on law and justice will take up a constitutional amendment bill on Monday that allows holders of dual nationality to become members of parliament amidst criticism on the move even from within the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), sources told Dawn.
‘The 22nd Constitution Amendment Bill 2012’, moved by Law Minister Farooq Naek in the Senate on July 10, seeks amendment to sub-clause (C) of Article 63(1) of the Constitution dealing with disqualification of a member of parliament. The committee is headed by PPP’s Kazim Khan.
Article 63 (1-C) says: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament), if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires citizenship of a foreign state.” The proposed amendment moved by the government had added words “except a state with which the federal government has a dual nationality arrangement under the law, before or after the commencement of the Constitution (22nd) Amendment Act 2012”.
The Minister of State for Interior, Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, informed the Senate during the question hour on Thursday that Pakistan had dual nationality arrangements with 16 countries _ the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Syria and Sweden.
The government has moved the bill at a time when the Supreme Court has already suspended membership of 12 parliamentarians for holding dual nationality and submitting wrong affidavits at the time of contesting the 2008 elections.
The government enjoys complete support of its main coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, but the Awami National Party is opposed to the move.
Another coalition partner, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, has extended support to the bill, but with the proviso that a dual nationality holder must renounce the citizenship of the other country in case the individual was a contender for top constitutional offices like the president, the prime minister, governors or ministers.
Raza Rabbani and Sughra Imam, the PPP’s two heavyweights in the upper house, put their own government in a tight spot on the matter on Thursday when the minister failed to explain dual nationality arrangements with other countries, particularly the US.
The PPP senators wondered as to how could a Pakistani remain a “Pakistan national” if he or she had renounced the same while taking oath as a citizen of the US.
Quoting from the oath of allegiance which a person has to take while accepting US citizenship, Sughra Imam said the agreement signed by the government of Gen Pervez Musharraf did not seem in conformity with the Constitution and other laws of the country.
Sughra Imam questioned as to how it was legally and constitutionally possible that a person could remain the citizen of Pakistan after renouncing it.
Raza Rabbani pointed out that under the same oath of allegiance, an aspirant to US citizenship was also required to declare that he would pick up arms in defence of his new homeland.
He asked the minister to clarify whether the government was ready to review the agreement, alleging that Gen Musharraf had signed it to make Pakistan a “client state” of the US.
Mr Rabbani, who is a member of the standing committee that would take up the bill on Monday, is also expected to raise the same points in the meeting.
Other members of the committee are Jahangir Badar and Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan of PPP, Syed Zafar Ali Shah and Raja Zafarul Haq of PML-N, Dr Farogh Naseem of MQM, Muzaffar Hussain Shah of PML-F and Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani of JUI-F.