LAHORE - The federal government, in a bid to bring constitutional amendment for lifting ban on dual national parliamentarians, is learnt to have sought recommendations from the provinces on a draft bill 2013, The Nation has learnt.
In this respect, the Punjab government on January 16 constituted a cabinet sub-committee under Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Rana Sanaullah.
The committee will draw Minister for Environment Shuja Khanzada, MPA Dr Aysha Chous Pasha, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, Punjab Chief Secretary Naveed Akram Cheema, Home Secretary Azam Salman and Law Secretary Abul Hassan Najmi.
The committee has been mandated to prepare recommendations and forward the same to the federal government.
The Article 63(1)(C) that reads “a person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state” may be amended through a fresh legislation.
The former PPP-led coalition government had also proposed a draft law to bring a constitutional amendment that could bar dual national parliamentarians.
Many of the parliamentarians were penalised by the courts then. The maximum number of them belonged to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the then major opposition group.
But PML-N along with ANP and MQM, the coalition partners of the PPP government, had expressed reservations and opposed the bill. The opposition at that time had also staged a walkout from the Upper House. Senators Aitzaz Ahsan and Raza Rabbani had also expressed their reservations over the bill.
Refereeing to US law, Aitzaz had said it was written in the US citizenship oath that a person could also take up arms in defence of the country while Senator Raza Rabbani asked for a review of the dual nationality agreement with the US.
A parliamentarian of the ruling party said the current government had taken this step to lift the ban as it was a discriminatory law that banned parliamentarians but was mum over dual nationality of judges, generals and bureaucrats.
He said the current regime wanted a level-playing field for all the stakeholders.
When asked if the current move to lift ban on dual national parliamentarians was initiated on government’s failure to ban others in the various sectors, he replied the law should treat all the citizens equally.
An opposition member said that titillating over dual nationality holder bureaucrats, the government had back paddled on its pledge to ban them from holding important positions in the government secretariats, foreign services and other formations.
The Supreme Court judgment in September 2012 had established that dual nationals could not be entrusted with important matters. Many politicians had to face consequences of this decree.
A resolution was also passed on June 7, 2012 in the assembly demanding employees of the federal and provincial governments to submit affidavits about dual nationality or face disciplinary action. Details of their foreign trips and children studying abroad were also called. Resolutions (334 and 321) were also passed in the Punjab Assembly regarding dual membership of government servants.
Besides, the Punjab law minister had constituted a committee under the law secretary, with the Services and Secretary Regulations (S&GAD) secretary as its members to look into the issue and give recommendations regarding dual nationality of bureaucrats.
The committee met in September 2012 and gave recommendations to the competent authority. As per the minutes of meeting, the committee had then observed that there was no restriction in the existing provision of law or rules to restrict civil servants from possessing dual nationality.
Quoting Rule 19 of the Punjab Civil Servants Rules 1974 that says “No person shall be appointed to a post unless he is a citizen of Pakistan, provided that this restriction may be relaxed by Government in suitable cases”. It further observed that in case of dual nationality, there would be more opportunities of importing national expertise, adding that there would be an immense loss to the government if such experts were restricted from joining public service.
It would be more valued better than capital foreign investment, it held.
Therefore, the government should utilize their services, it recommended. The government should not discourage civil servants possessing dual nationality, it observed.
The committee further held that disallowing dual nationality to bureaucracy would create bottlenecks and would be harmful to development of the nation.
The committee unanimously recommended the resolutions adopted by the assembly be opposed and in case these were required to be forwarded to the federal government, the same not be recommended.
Moreover, sources in S&GAD disclosed that officers did not mention their dual nationality, if any, even though Services Secretary Mubashar Raza had shown ignorance on the survey of bureaucrats on the issue. The officers, he said, dispatched the data directly to the Establishment Division in Islamabad.
A retired officer said dual nationality questioned loyalty of a person; therefore there was enough to make someone ineligible for holding highly classified areas of military, civil establishment or where they had access to highly secret information.
The proponents of lifting ban on dual nationality of lawmakers argue if dual national politicians are banned on the grounds that they are entrusted with national secrets as the apex court also decrees and hence shun their foreign nationality, why the same argument does not apply to bureaucrats, judges and generals who are in possession of the most secret documents as well.
A senior politician commented that the incumbent political setup did not want to displease the civil as well as military ranks on the issue of dual nationality, and hence, decided to legalise the same for lawmakers.