ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Thursday turned down a writ petition challenging the appointment of Special Assistants to Prime Minister(SAPMs) having dual nationalities.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition and rejected the same after hearing the arguments. The IHC bench noted in its verdict, “This petition is devoid of merits and thus dismissed in limine.” During the hearing, the petitioner’s counsel mainly argued that rule 4(6) of the Rules of 1973 is ultra-vires of the Constitution and in the memorandum of the petition, the petitioner also took the plea of dual nationality for seeking a declaration regarding disqualification of the respondents.

The Chief Justice observed that sub rule 6 of rule 4 enables PM to appoint Special Assistant or Special Assistants and to determine their status and functions. He added, “The Rules of 1973, particularly rule 4(6) are not in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution. Special Assistants are not members of the Federal Cabinet. Moreover, they are distinct from Advisors appointed by the President on the advice of the PM under Article 93(1) of the Constitution.”

He said that the PM is the chief executive of one of the most important organs of the State and has to perform multiple/complex functions. A person elected as PM is answerable to the people of Pakistan and the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament). The onerous role of the PM described under the Constitution cannot be performed by the latter alone. In order to enable the PM to transact business of the Executive organ of the State, the latter ought to have the freedom to appoint officials or other persons for assistance.

The bench ruled. “Rule 4(6) is one of such modes whereby the PM has been empowered to appoint Special Assistants. There is no restriction regarding the number of Special Assistants that can be appointed by the Prime Minster.”

“There is also no restriction of appointing persons having dual nationality. The only restriction provided in the Constitution is under Article 63(1)(c) and it is confined to disqualification of a person from “being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)”. The chief justice maintained that the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 expressly allows a citizen of Pakistan to hold dual nationality as has been described in section 14(3) ibid. It is not fair to raise doubts or to be skeptical regarding appointment of a dual national as a Special Assistant by the PM.