The question of allowing dual nationals to participate in the political process is a controversial one. The constitution of Pakistan disqualifies those holding the nationality of another country from contesting parliamentary elections, yet the issue of whether other political positions should be assigned to dual nationals is still a debate. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has in the past been highly critical of this, with Imran Khan censuring other political parties for allowing dual nationals to hold influence in government.

It is thus ironic that the latest controversy regarding dual nationals in politics is one that is directed at the PTI itself. The details of assets and dual nationalities of 20 advisers and special assistants to the prime minister, released by the cabinet division on Saturday, revealed that out of 19 non-elected cabinet members, four special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs) hold dual nationalities. Three others hold residency of other countries.

This information has rejuvenated the debate on dual nationals, and to what extent they should be allowed to exert influence. Naturally, this disclosure has evoked the ire of other political parties, who have called out PTI for going back on their stance and being hypocritical on their practices.

Their criticisms are not without substance and require some introspection from PTI. Now that this debate has resurfaced, it is time for PTI, and other parties, to rethink and properly define the political role that dual nationalities can play, and to what extent a conflict of interest could arise if a SPAM is also a national of another country. Since PTI has also indulged in the same practice it once so harshly criticised, it needs to deal with these questions non-politically and rationally. By law, SAPMs are currently not mandated to forgo any additional nationality; but members of parliament are. If both can end up being in the Cabinet, why are these double standards in place? The law must be clear on this issue; dual nationals can or cannot hold positions of power in government; there is no middle ground.