A recent news in a local publication that Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will observe the dual nationality restrictions in all future polls and by-polls has generated a lot of reaction at the domestic and international platforms. Such sensitive issues may also serve well to reinforce the diversion strategy of the ruling party to divert the attention of the masses to a sideline issue, as countdown on the numbered days of this failed government has already begun. The dual nationality poll ban is hardly an issue, as the Constitution clearly lays down the criteria for parliamentary electoral candidates, which should have been implemented in letter and in spirit at the time of each election and by-election.

Expatriates, including those possessing dual citizenship, have always felt for the plight of the country and served their motherland in numerous ways. Every year, they send foreign remittances to Pakistan worth billions of dollars, which forms a critical chunk of its income. This is largely possible because of their dual nationalities, as certain countries only allow citizens to start personal businesses. The whole nation will bear testimony to the fact that in the earthquake of 2005 and the floods of 2010, besides collecting and sending material aid worth millions of dollars, innumerable overseas Pakistanis who were medical experts, along with non-medical volunteers, preferred to physically spend weeks in the affected areas to assist their brothers during these calamities. Instead of going on vacations with their families, they came to Pakistan because they love their homeland; surely, they do not go everywhere in the world where a natural disaster strikes.

Undoubtedly, the State’s economy is regularly contributed to by overseas Pakistanis. For example, a major reason for our national airline to be functional today, in spite of the level of comfort during the journey and the customer satisfaction that it is capable of providing, is because it is still the expatriates’ first choice. A local talk show highlighted these overseas Pakistanis as a high risk target for ransom kidnappings, yet this fact is not a deterrent to keep them away from visiting their homeland. The law and order situation and high security risk at home has kept investors and tourists away, but not overseas Pakistanis.

The health sector of the country is in shambles; still Shaukat Khanum Hospital has succeeded in providing medical care to cancer patients, which is of international standards. This is only possible because expatriate medical experts in this field decided to return to their homeland and serve their country men. A majority of them only return after becoming dual nationals for various reasons.

Besides this, dual nationals have contributed to the industry and the IT sector. They invest in the construction sector as well. Senior educationists and technocrats are also returned expatriates. The winds of change in Pakistan, which are consolidating under the leadership of Imran Khan, are strongly banking on the investment of overseas Pakistanis to turn around the critical economic situation in the country.

Every day thousands of citizens leave the country in search of a better life, since the economy at home has failed to provide them with opportunities to earn bread and butter and give a decent life to their families. Some go abroad for higher education, while others leave to become an integral part of the workforce of other nations. In return, they get a decent pay and dignity of labour. It was, however, the duty of successive governments to ensure that planning was in place to provide decent livelihood to the residents of this country. Unfortunately, in the 64 years since independence, it was the rulers who flourished and not the common man. Thanks to these lawmakers and policymakers, there will be no gas supply to a major part of the industry for the coming months, which means that the entire labour force of the affected industry will be out of work. In such circumstances, given an opportunity, how many would refuse to go abroad to earn a decent living, which is the fundamental right of every Pakistani and the duty of the government to provide.

Who then is responsible for creating dual nationals out of Pakistani citizens: The elected parliamentarians, who use State resources for personal growth; the voting population, who vote for fraudsters as fake degree holders; or non-voters, who fail to realise the significance of their vote and never cast it. If reservations with dual nationals are generalised on the basis of two former ‘imported’ Prime Ministers of the country, then the parliamentarians are as responsible if not more, because it was only through their vote that these candidates elevated into prime ministership. Perhaps, it is a strong discrimination of loyal and loving Pakistanis only to generate a heated debate on regulations, which are already a part of the Constitution for decades and finding scapegoats to blame for the follies and failures of the ruling elite.

Indeed, there is no bar on the ECP to implement the criteria laid down in the Constitution to enable voters to elect honest Pakistani citizens, as representatives of Parliament. In case of the Commission’s failure to perform its duties efficiently it must be held accountable.

It has been over half a century the British rulers left the subcontinent, but their divide and rule legacy is still practiced in one form or another. The demand for the creation of additional provinces on non-administrative grounds is one way to affect Pakistanis at home and the dual nationality issue is another to split them at the domestic and international level. Such debates only nurture hatred in the hearts of a nation and can result in sowing the seeds of hatred within families, which is the basic unit of our society. The fact is that many of these dual nationals are as Pakistani at heart as the 180 million people living in this country.

The writer is an ex-assistant commissioner Income Tax, IT and Change Management consultant and a Public Sector Management analyst.

Email: drsaniachaudhry@gmail.com