THE series of resignations by National Assembly and Sindh Assembly members over the weekend was inevitable. The Election Commission of Pakistan had made it known that the country not only had laws against dual nationality, but that now these laws were going to be implemented too. Despite conviction and a long period of disqualification staring them in the face, many lawmakers affected by the rule had waited rather too long for their own comfort before they decided to give up their seats in the assemblies to retain their second nationality. Some lawmakers have yet to come up with a response to the ECP’s demand, placing themselves at risk of being exposed to legal proceedings, including criminal cases. They have no option but to come clean on their status.
It would be in the interest of the rule of law that if and when action is initiated against non-compliance, the matter is taken up in a professional way rather than as a loud drive to fix politics in the country — an exercise the implementers are not tasked with but which they have often shown to have undertaken. During the current term, members of the assemblies have been asked some very tough questions. Those under pressure have routinely been found trying to paint steps against them as if these were part of a grand effort to undermine the assemblies and the incumbents on the whole. This suits their politics. The implementers of the law don’t need to over-emphasise. Simple hard, cold facts and adherence to the existing law is all that is required.
Going by the law, with the assemblies’ term expiring in March, by-polls can no longer be held. The interim will provide parties and individuals time to reflect and prioritise. Maybe some of those who have chosen dual nationality over an opportunity to represent Pakistanis in their elected houses would change their mind and make a return to the assembly. Also, parliament, if it so desired, could agree on new laws to accommodate dual nationality holders. It could go for a ‘compromise’ piece of legislation allowing dual nationals to fight an election but with the condition that they would have to renounce their second nationality if they won the polls. It could alternately go for legislation that allows lawmakers in parliament to have a second citizenship. Either move would clear any confusion regarding those who can contest elections or otherwise. However, the fact is that having dual nationals as parliamentarians can lead to situations where there is a conflict of interest.