Dual nationality holders banned from contesting polls -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Dual nationality holders banned from contesting polls

Ansar Abbasi and Mumtaz Alvi

ISLAMABAD: The Secretary of Election Commission has said that the commission’s decision to bar dual nationality holders from contesting elections, also applies to the incumbent MPs.

Talking to The News, the secretary ECP, Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, explained that any incumbent member of parliament (National Assembly, Senate or provincial assemblies) could be de-seated for having dual nationality.

He, however, said that the Election Commission can’t move against such sitting MPs on its own but would require either a reference from presiding officer (Chairman Senate, Speaker of National or provincial assemblies) or a court order to de-seat such MPs.
The secretary said that the election of dual nationals to any house of parliament in the past had been a violation of the Constitution, as the relevant constitutional provision was never implemented.

“Any member in the present parliament having a dual nationality could be removed too but only if the Election Commission is referred such a case either by the speaker of the National Assembly or provincial assemblies or by chairman Senate or by the superior judiciary,” the secretary ECP said.

Under Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution: “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.”

The dilemma for the present parliament is that besides the ineligibility of its members having dual nationality, its standing became dubious for two reasons. Firstly, out of 80 million voters included in the electoral rolls on the basis of which the 2008 elections were held, 30 million votes were bogus. Secondly, at least 200 parliamentarians were feared to have been elected in the 2008 elections on the basis of fake degrees.

Although, the bogus 30 million votes have been cancelled and new electoral rolls are presently being finalised, the proceeding against the fake degree holders could not be matured because of strong opposition of the government and MPs. However, still at least 25-30 MPs have so far been de-seated for holding fake degrees.

Earlier, the ECP said that dual nationality holders will be ineligible for taking part in elections and asked for ensuring no candidate with dual nationality can take part in the upcoming election for a Senate seat that fell vacant after Azam Swati’s resignation.

The electoral body has asserted its position for the first time on this particular matter though the relevant law already existed in the Constitution but in the past, the ECP never dared to ensure its implementation.

However, it has now made it mandatory for a candidate to submit with his or her nomination papers a declaration about his or her nationality. In case of a dual nationality holder, such papers would not be entertained any more.

“Even if a candidate misleads the returning officer, truth will ultimately surface and this act will be a corrupt practice, liable for legal proceedings and ultimate disqualification of a misleading candidate,” a senior ECP official contended. A series of consultative sessions were held recently at the Election Commission to implement the clause in letter and spirit.

The Article 63-1(c) of the Constitution read with Section 99 (1A) (c) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976, clearly says that the law disqualifies such people from being elected, or chosen as, and from being a member of parliament, if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state.

Former Senator Azam Swati, who was elected on a JUI-Fazl ticket, surrendered his American nationality to qualify for the election. He wrote a letter to the chief election commissioner to ensure implementation of the relevant clause.

“I still believe there are around 35 legislators who have dual nationality and still continue to be members of legislatures in the Centre and in provinces,” he maintained while talking to The News here.

Early this year, on the private members’ day, PML legislator Raza Hayat Hiraj had moved a bill in the National Assembly, seeking the disqualification of dual-nationality holders for the services of Pakistan, parliament as well as provincial assemblies.

Under the constitutional amendment bill, no citizen is to be allowed to take part in elections until and unless he or she surrenders the foreign nationality, if he has any.

ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, according to the ECP Secretariat, said the ECP issued a directive for ensuring its strict implementation for returning officers to obtain a declaration on oath from all the persons filing nomination papers for an election to a seat in parliament or a provincial assembly.

He pointed out Article 63(1) (c) of the Constitution says, “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.”

The ECP secretary made it clear that this provision of the Constitution was being implemented for the first time in the Senate by-election in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for which nomination papers were to be submitted on December 20, 21, 2011 and the polling would take place on January 04, 2012 at the Provincial Assembly Building, Peshawar.

Source: The News