The issue of public office bearers holding dual nationalities has come alive yet again. However, this time round, it is not the judiciary which is leading the charge as observed in the past. Instead, it’s the proceedings in the Senate, which are primarily focusing on the judges of the superior judiciary itself. A motion seeking identification of judges who have dual nationality was deferred on Monday, after Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Pervaiz Rashid, sought time to consult the Ministry of Law and Justice and Registrar Supreme Court on the matter.
The motion was moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar, who expressed his concerns over the presence of dual nationals in the judiciary. Other members of the House showed their reservations by questioning the prevalent practice of double standards. Several members of the Parliament were disqualified over possessing dual nationality. The contention drawn by the judiciary in those cases was over the aspect of “loyalty” of those who have taken an oath of allegiance to another country and its constitution. Therefore, the collective wisdom of our honorable judges saw it fit to bar dual nationals from holding public offices in order to secure public interest. In 2012, an additional district and session judge resigned from her post over dual nationality following the directions of the Sindh High Court. The court then was leading a campaign to identify and remove dual nationals present in its own institution.
The Senate was informed that the constitution does not permit the appointment of dual nationals in the armed forces. Same is the case with civil servants who are required to surrender their nationality and inform the government before joining the civil service academy. The delay in answering the Senate’s questions is giving rise to concerns about the state of affairs in the judiciary, which is an unfortunate development. As an institution of the state which holds the responsibility to interpret the law and dispense justice, the judiciary must be seen as a leading example of transparency and openness.
The issue is not whether dual nationals can serve their duties while maintaining high standards of loyalty and responsibility. That is an entirely different debate. Here, it is about ensuring that the same sets of rules apply across the board. Given that the judiciary, through its own judgments, has firmly established its stance on the dual nationality of public officers, it is left with no other choice but to adhere to the same principle. Any other course of action will prove detrimental for the image of the judiciary and army, and undermine their institutional credibility which would be most unfortunate.