LAHORE - The country’s top court Saturday provisionally allowed five senators-elect allegedly having dual nationality to take oath and participate in the Senate polls to be held on March 12.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, passed the order at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry on suo motu notice taken about the parliamentarians, judges and civil servants having dual nationality. Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members of the bench.

CJP Nisar directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue notification of the senators allegedly holding dual nationality on interim basis.

The bench also constituted a seven-member larger bench and sought replies from both sides to determine the subject matter on the constitutional basis whether a person who had surrendered his citizenship of any other country like the UK and the US could be elected as a public representative and whether he could become their citizen again.

The Election Commission of Pakistan, in compliance with the Supreme Court order, had withheld notification of the senators allegedly holding dual nationality. The senators whose notification had previously been withheld included Prime Minister Abbasi’s sister Sadia Abbasi and Nuzhat Sadiq of PML-N, PTI’s Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar, Hamayun Akhtar and Kuda Babar from Balochistan.

Barrister Bilal Hassan Minto and Barrister Ali Zafar, amicus curies, advanced their arguments on the subject matter before the bench. Barrister Bilal Hassan Minto contended the question was whether the renunciation made by the senators-elect of their foreign nationality was permanent. He argued on the law and English dictionaries to elaborate the meaning of word “acquisition.” He pointed out that Pakistani court had to decide the matter in accordance with the local laws.

The CJP asked PTI leader Chaudhry Sarwar why he had come to Pakistan when his family members and wealth were in the UK. He answered he had surrendered his UK citizenship in 2013 and that, according to the UK’s laws, the abandoned citizenship could be restored. The bench observed: “Apparently, it seems you have surrendered your citizenship on temporary basis.” Chaudhry Sarwar said decision against him would disappoint the overseas Pakistanis who loved the country and sent foreign remittances to it. He said: “Decision against me will not be a good omen for overseas Pakistanis. It will not have a positive impact on the minds those sending foreign remittances to the country.” Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked: “You should not be worried about overseas Pakistanis. You are in the Supreme Court.” During the proceedings, the CJP also said his own daughter was the US citizen and she had planned to run for an election after coming back to Pakistan. “But it seems my decision will shatter her plan,” the CJP remarked, on which there was a laughter in the courtroom.

“We are protecting the rights of overseas Pakistanis,” Justice Ahsan further remarked. Chaudhry asked whether overseas Pakistanis would be deprived of their rights. The CJP said: “You couldn’t get the spirit of the law. Your speech may be satisfying you, but it is not the spirit of the law. We have to analyse whether giving up citizenship of any country is temporary or permanent.”

The attorney general of Pakistan present in the court said, according to the citizenship laws of the UK, a citizen could gain his status again even after abandoning it. He contended the Lahore High Court had already decided on dual nationality in 2002.

Justice Bandial asked Sarwar whether he gave up foreign nationality to become a public representative in Pakistan. He replied: “I will live and die in Pakistan and will submit my affidavit soon before the Supreme Court.”

The CJP directed him to submit his affidavit that he would not gain his UK citizenship again. The top judge observed the matter needed a serious deliberation and interpretation of laws, including Article 63 (1) (c) of the Constitution. Therefore, a seven-member larger bench would be constituted soon to decide the matter, he observed. However, as an interim relief, the CJP directed the ECP to issue the withheld notifications of the senators.