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Vote right to expatriates

While enabling the overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote, we need to make foolproof arrangements for blocking election of dual nationals to the country’s legislative bodies

Vote right to expatriates

In a petition, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan, on January 17, 2018, to declare the overseas Pakistanis citizens of Pakistan, recognising their fundamental right to utilise their right of franchise whether in Pakistan or abroad. The PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, contended that the “citizens of Pakistan working abroad, residents or otherwise living abroad, are contributing to the development of Pakistan by their hard earned assets and are involved in strengthening the economy of Pakistan by remitting foreign exchange back home.”

We can divide expatriate Pakistanis into two categories: one, Pakistanis living and working abroad, and two, holders of dual nationality. The Pakistanis in the first category are mostly working in the Middle East, where no foreigner can acquire citizenship. These overseas Pakistanis are poor workers, who contribute lion’s share — almost 70 per cent — to the total annual remittances by the Pakistani workers abroad. In contrast, the contribution of expatriates living in the West is only 30 per cent to the overall remittances received in the country.

To protect and promote their business interests, in the past, even some industrial houses have been fielding their nominees in elections.

As per law, there is no bar on expatriates having only Pakistani nationality to contest election and hold public offices. However, the expatriates of Pakistan origin, holding dual nationality, can come to Pakistan and enjoy all rights admissible to the citizens, including casting of votes or choosing their representatives during elections. But, under the existing provisions of the Constitution they cannot become Members of the Senate, National Assembly and the provincial assemblies unless they surrender their foreign nationality and loyalty to the adopted country.

Pakistan’s Constitution, under Article 63(1)(c), prohibits persons having dual nationality from contesting elections and representing the citizens in legislative bodies and holding public offices. Furthermore, Article 5(1) of the Constitution, under the heading ‘Loyalty to State and Obedience to Constitution and Law’, asserts that “loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen.”

The bar on the holders of dual nationality is logical because the Parliament frames laws and policies and holds discussions on issues of national importance, including matters concerning the country’s defence, foreign policy and improvement in the life of the citizens. Such individuals whose loyalties lie elsewhere cannot do justice to this onerous work of strategic nature.

Can a person be loyal to two states? Certainly, not. For that very reason, people acquiring citizenship of another country are often required to surrender the citizenship of their country of origin. Generally, such persons are also required to make an oath, as is the case in the United States of America. While acquiring citizenship of the USA, every person is required to make an oath to renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any other country. Therefore, on May 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan held that dual nationals have no right to represent the people of Pakistan and decide the issues of national importance, being members of different committees, including defence etc; where all open and secret policies for the betterment of the people are discussed.

While filing nomination papers, the citizens of Pakistan desirous of contesting elections have to give a declaration, in writing, that they are not the citizen of any other country. However, dozens of members of the past legislative bodies, at the time of contesting elections, concealed their dual nationality and thus cheated not only the Election Commission of Pakistan but also the nation and the State. While filing nomination papers, if they had declared that they are citizens of some other country, their nomination papers would have been rejected then and there. Therefore, while agreeing to the demand to make arrangements for enabling the overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote to elect their representatives, we need to make foolproof arrangements for blocking election of dual nationals to the country’s legislative bodies and other top slots of the State.

In 1994, a member tabled a resolution in the National Assembly (NA) demanding that dual nationals be identified and disqualified as such persons were not eligible to contest the election. The NA took up the resolution on a Private Members Day. When the suspected foreign nationals and their patrons/sympathisers learnt about this resolution, they foiled the bid through intensive backdoor efforts. There is a possibility that some of the dual nationality holders amongst them could be proxies of their newly-adopted countries, which have sent them here to look after and promote their interests! The holders of dual nationality should not, therefore, be allowed under any circumstances to contest elections because such an arrangement has the potential to destabilise Pakistan.

Furthermore, most of the individuals holding dual nationality have assets and accounts abroad. Though most of them might have acquired those assets through business activities, in many cases they had acquired assets abroad by transferring funds from Pakistan through non-banking channels.

To protect and promote their business interests, in the past, even some industrial houses have been fielding their nominees in elections. When General Ziaul Haq opted to have a civilian façade for his rule and announced elections to the Majlis-e-Shoora, one of the leading industrial houses of the country motivated one of its employees to contest the election. That fellow not only got elected to the Majlis-e-Shoora, he became a federal minister and was later elected to the top slot in the Majlis. Likewise, foreign countries or their special agencies could field pliable persons amongst the dual nationality holders to contest the elections, get them elected and then elevated to sensitive positions!

Sometimes, special interest groups also try to control powerful unions/associations or professional bodies by infiltrating their moles, who do their best to take over the control of those organisations. If they fail, then they create hindrances in the smooth working of those organisations. If the holders of dual nationality are permitted to contest elections what is the guarantee that the opportunity would not be grabbed by foreign powers or their special agencies to get their hirelings elected to the legislative bodies, aimed at turning these elected forums into fish markets or grabbing sensitive public offices!

If leaders want democracy to grow and flourish in the country, they need to keep the long-term consequences of their actions in view rather than gamble for short-term gains. Furthermore, if decisions in the larger national interest are avoided, the citizens will be constrained to think that politics in this country has been reduced to a farce to protect and promote the vested interests of the privileged few. A thinking of this nature may greatly harm politics and growth of the political process and, ultimately, the country as a whole.

Alauddin Masood

alauddin masood
The writer is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad. He can be reached at alauddinmasood@gmail.com

2 comments

  • An application under section 12(2) of the C.P.C. against judgement passed in Const. Petition 05/2012 by the Supreme Court of Pakistan; 2012 SCMR 1101).

    It has come to my knowledge that judgement passed by this Court, in the above cited Const. Petition 05/2012 ( Syed Mahmood Akhter Naqvi Vs Federation of Islamic Republic of Pakistan: 2012 SCMR 1101), had been secured by deceptive means while ignoring important factors of facts, law and policy.
    That the Court ignored the political representation of almost a million Pakistani nationals, with dual citizenship from 16 permitted States, and not from foreign States, on their return from temporary stay abroad. That these citizens are entitled to residency and can be register for a vote but are denied candidacy in a free & fair democratic elections. That this Court applied wrong section of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, to exclude lawfully permitted dual citizens, under section 14(3), from political representation.
    That the Court being an independent organ of the State, for dispensing of justice to its citizens, according to the law, as enacted by the parliament of the country.
    That a Pakistani national with single citizenship of Pakistan, legally residing in U.K, is entitle to register as a voter, being a citizen of Commonwealth country, and hence qualify to be nominated for political representation in the U.K electoral system, but that same person on acquiring a secondary citizenship from a permitted State, i.e., U.K, is denied equal right to nomination as a candidate, in Pakistan, not by constitutional provision but by misinterpretation of law by judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
    That to deny a Pakistani national of their most cherished right of master citizenship of Pakistan is most regrettable, unfair, and unlawful judgement by this Court. That exclusion of such a large section of Pakistani voters from electoral process is un-democratic, and this has undermined the fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens, as guarantees under the 1973 constitution.
    Pakistan being an independent & sovereign State cannot be ruled by those in power as legacy of colonial rule of “divide & rule”. By segregating citizens, as practised in apartheid, the rulers are creating inequalities and discrimination among citizens and dividing the nation. Further, a nation that is divided and not in peace within itself, cannot prosper to its full potential. That the history of Indian cast system being practised by Muslims judges of Pakistan. The exclusion of NICOP, as non-citizen, is contrary to the law, depriving permitted dual citizen of their master citizenship of Pakistan, without a fair trial.
    That a NICOP card holder is not a person who is to be disqualified, but his or her NICOP card is acceptance by all authorities that he or she is a Pakistani citizen, with right to register as a voter on ECP electoral roll, and also to participate with equality and without discrimination with other citizens of the State.
    That vote is a privilege for citizen only, single or permitted dual, home or abroad, but not for foreign citizens.
    That the nomination form –I for candidates, on page 7, under “statement on oath” is ambiguous as it does not cater for permitted dual citizens of section 14(3) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951.
    The Court judges are under oath to uphold the Constitution & the law for the protection of its loyal citizens of State of Pakistan, at home or abroad. That the Court has deprived Pakistani nationals of their master citizenship, in a trial under article 184(3), while ignoring national, international laws on nationality. That the Court ignored rule of master citizenship, governing nationality/citizenship between States, by exclusion and disqualification of permitted dual citizens as whole class.
    That the judgement & orders dated 20-9-2012, to the Election Commission of Pakistan may please be amended as to disqualify only those persons who had either renounced their citizenship of Pakistan, or acquired citizenship from a foreign State, and not any person who became a citizen of permitted States, as allowed under section 14(3) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951.
    Pakistan’s ex nationals, who obtain a certificate renouncing their national status as citizens of Pakistan, lose their political right to representation as they are no longer citizens of Pakistan, and are free to become national or citizen of any foreign State of their choice, by naturalisation or registration.
    That article 63 (1) (C) is NOT part of fundamental rights under the constitution.
    That article 63 (1) (C) of the 1973 Constitution, with insertion of a comma (,) after Pakistan and before or, protected the fundamental human rights of the citizens of the State, in return for loyalty to the State by single or dual citizens. Those pre 1973 constitutions of 1956 and 1962 were without comma, in similar articles, as there were no concepts of dual citizenship before the insertion of section 14(3) in the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, in 1972.
    That the Court undermined the jurisdiction of the Speakers and of ECP under article 63 and accepted the use of article 184(3), not for enforcement of fundamental rights in the public interest, but used this article to disqualify legitimately elected legislators in violation of will of their voters. That to use article 184(3) to disqualify legislators under article 63 is outside the jurisdiction of the Court and is infringement to a free & fair elections.
    The judgement also ignores bilateral agreements between Federal Government and permitted States, as notified in the official gazette, beside Pakistan’s commitment to international organisations, such as UNHR declaration and ICCPR. If anything, it’s the Federal Government that have made dual citizens slaves by rendering permitted dual citizens Stateless in the country of their master citizenship, by not defending before the Court!
    That section 27(2) (A), of the Punjab Local Government Act 2013, without comma (,) may please also be declared non-applicable to holders of NICOP, as Punjab is not entitled to legislate separate Citizenship Act under the 1973 Constitution, as per 4th schedule legislative list.
    That a citizen of Pakistan, single or permitted dual, cannot be excluded from political representation, in law or as a policy by judiciary. That this amounts to “match fixing”, in a free & fair elections under the disguise of scrutiny.
    That the voting right of a Pakistani citizen to cast their vote, while abroad, is a separate issue, which needs the attention of ECP! That this cannot be regarded as damages awarded to Overseas Pakistani citizens, for exclusion from representation, while nomination scrutiny is carried out by ECP of candidates, in democratically elected governments within Pakistan.
    Lastly, as its the judgement of this court, it’s imperative that the case filled under CRP 207/2016, where ignorance of law is being used as an excuse by the bench, (in their order dated 13-3-2017), rather than the petitioner, is pending before this court as “disposed off”, be resolved as a matter of urgency, before any future elections.
    Remember, justice delayed is justice denied!

  • The Law as it stands, my friend, is embodied in section 14 (3) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, allowing for “dual citizenship” as a Pakistani national. Will you please read the law before submitting misinformation in newspapers.
    Article 63 (1) (C) is not where I or any Pakistani national gets his or her citizenship!
    Please read the nationality Act before publishing, as responsible editors!

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