The appointments and subsequent resignations of former Special Assistants to the Prime Minister (SAPM) Tania Aidrus and Zafar Mirza generated a lot of controversy. The choices for SAPMs have caused problems to the government from the start—there were questions about credibility, conflict of interest and of course, the issue of dual nationalities. This is why the Prime Minister should be credited with rectifying a problem that was causing strife within the cabinet, not to mention the headlines these SAPMs had made over the past few months.

In these two cases, Aidrus’ presence on the board of an NGO, the Digital Pakistan Foundation, raised more than a few eyebrows. Though she was not drawing monetary benefits from it, conflict of interest was a major concern. With Dr Mirza, the issues were more deep-seated; it is said that he failed to put a hold on the rising prices of medicines and mishandled the issue of importing raw materials for medicines from India. The Supreme Court’s observations on Dr Zafar’s competence were also among the reasons behind his resignation.

Beyond the grumbling among the elected members of the cabinet, this issue has escalated beyond that of the unsatisfactory performance or credibility of the two appointees—it has become one of dual nationalities and government positions. The government had been on the receiving end of endless criticism for failing to live up to its own previous principles of not distributing influential positions to dual nationals, Aidrus being among them.

It makes no sense to bar elected members of cabinet from holding nationalities of a country other than Pakistan, when a Prime Minister can appoint dual nationals into cabinet himself. They are either loyal or not; the government cannot have it both ways.

After the excessive attention that Aidrus’ dual nationality received, it would not be surprising if there weren’t many qualified contenders for her replacement who would be eager to accept the inspection and humiliation that seems to come with the job.