It is as if Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is bent on opposing judicial verdicts, as in the ban placed on dual nationals from being legislators, or of the sentence passed on Dr Shakeel Afridi for spying for the USA. He attacked both in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday. He may have used the argument of the vote for overseas Pakistanis, but the principle involved was his arrogating to himself the right of interpreting the Constitution, and having that interpretation prevail over the Supreme Court’s.  In the Shakeel Afridi case, he seemingly went against the fundamental rule that a judgement is assumed to be final, unless cancelled or stayed. This was the government’s first plea when refusing to implement the Supreme Court’s judgement in the NRO case, that it had filed a review petition. Mr Gilani’s assumption that his office allows him to interpret the Constitution more, or at least as, authoritatively as the Supreme Court, does not figure in the Constitution.

Taking this view involves the Prime Minister in a morass he probably does not want to get into. It is not clear if Mr Gilani is defending the principle of having dual nationals as legislators, or the suspended member, Ms Farahnaz Ispahani, who was on the President’s team until recently, or even whether he cannot bear the thought of losing Mr Rehman Malik, another dual national, from his Cabinet. It is true that the present citizenship law, both domestic and foreign, must be reconciled with Constitution, and if Mr Gilani and his party believe there should be a change, then the appropriate legislation must be brought, as Mr Gilani says, with the Supreme Court again the final authority for interpreting that new law.

However, the Constitution appears clear in Article 63 (1c), which disqualifies anyone who “ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of another state.” The reason offered is the American oath of allegiance, which has to be sworn by all those naturalized as American citizens: “I absolutely and entirely abjure and renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign … state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.” However, according to US law, it allows dual nationals to remain also a loyal citizen of their country of birth or original citizenship. According to the norms, such statements are to taken as fact and are not open to interpretation. If the government and legislators wish to change the law, they may move a resolution in Parliament, specifying that dual nationals may be spefically allowed to retain membership of the assemblies. Should such a bill be passed, it should be considered the will of the people.