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Thursday Jul 7, 2022, Zul-hijjah 7, 1443 Hijri

Overseas Pakistanis a nonexistent force in political books

05 October, 2012

By Amjad Malik

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I attended a few events at London including a reception at House of Lords on 3 October 2012 hosted by Lord Ahmed and the topic of 'role of Overseas Pakistanis in national development and dual nationals' came under discussion. The conclusion is the very message we keep hearing over and over again, that overseas community must continue sending money and, 'we will look after it', previous rulers were bad, but, 'we are better', and your problems will be solved in next govt as its a federal issue but in political matters, 'you are not trusted unless single (scrap dual nationality status)'. Eight million souls from overseas have been vouching n favour of opening gates for them as they think world has become a global village and interests have diverged to an extent that rather than nationality, services must be sought on the basis of skill & experience in an anti competitive fashion. Best man fit for the job must get the job than fill in the blank by cronies currently in existence in different shape and form.Pakistan must not be closing its doors for their own with brilliance in aid of 'status quo' and 'monopoly' in violation of the Art.25 of the same constitution. If dual nationality is a crime than it must be applied to all in sundry.

Parliament of Pakistan must legislate quickly to end this debate by allowing those to continue casting vote and holding the flag that have dual nationality and have never declared to renounce or cease Pakistani status. Before joining Parliament a procedural changes may be brought to surrender foreign passport to Election Commission to be used once a position is vacated by an office holder but that process must be maintained with clarity, honesty and open declaration of interest & conflict. At present its way wired. Article 63 (1) (c) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 says if, "he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign State" so the article advocates that a person is disqualified to hold public office if he 'ceases' his original or 'acquires' an additional nationality. Practice though remained to the contrary. Citizenship Act 1951 allows Pakistanis to hold dual nationality if we have bilateral agreements with allied countries. No one ever questioned the propriety in having additional status uncles NICOP card distinguished 'true Pakistanis' and 'overseas Pakistanis'. Supreme Court too never interpreted in the past against those holding offices of public representations, bureaucracy, military and/or judiciary who were dual nationals until 2012. One core issue central to discussion is the 'due processes'.

If Election Commission failed to implement the law properly and never robustly auctioned, restrained, stopped, explained through public awareness campaign, then Why OP's must pay for the contributory negligence of the Chief Election Commissioner. Due process requires a notice, and choice of either retains dual nationality status or public representation position. Those requirements have never been met. A further clarification is also needed as to what is the mindset of Pakistani establishment, if they hold dual nationality an unforgiveable sin then be it, but at least change the citizenship Act and or the constitution. Currently, constitution, law, practice and interest group aspirations do not match with each other. With respect Supreme Court's decision is well and good but why not recover funds already splashed and lavishly used by former premiers who never even had a Pakistani ID on their overnight flight and what to say about the failure of election commission to ensure purpose scrutiny. Those who deem 'duals' as 'disloyal' and or 'fair weather' friends, who come when the grass is green, and leave sooner the meadow is suffering from the drought have not read the case of 'Dr Shakeel Afridi', General Musharraf or even Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Nasim Ashraf and or those 'Forged degree holders' who are sitting in Parliament without suspensions. Truly speaking, 'Shakeel Afridi' was not a dual national, though aspires to be and If anyone came to serve , he was Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan who too was a dual national, and he inaugurated Pakistan's atomic programme.

Looking at the foreign remittances which fill the gap between income and expenditures of Pakistan with 13 billion force me to say that materialistic lot come and go who leave Pakistan with public wealth and return on the basis of those slashed funds, not overseas Pakistanis. If genuine Overseas Pakistanis are counted, one can count on fingers as they are one in a million who came to serve. The contribution of the overseas Pakistanis is such that they must be assimilated through a consultative process where they are valued than denied being part of the process. A healthy output potential force me to say that these 8 million souls one day will save Pakistan.

In Conclusion, I will point out to Pakistanis Politicians to widen the consultation and seek answers to questions looming around with due process and inclusive consultation. Decide fairly whether they need these skilled lot in their parliament if not how can you ensure their representation as its a big 'interest group' consisting of around 8 million. Word of wise is that If a party chief with his foreign nationality can hold key leadership position & grant tickets to his disciples who run for parliament in Karachi, how can those at the receiving end be committing an offence. PPP wants to bag the support of dual nationals but lacks coherent vision and losing a chance to appease the dual nationals on account of their dwindling support but ruling party and MQM are making right noises to gain political advantage by considering voting right, special seats for their representation in the house and or right to contest.

At this very moment PML(N) is caught in individuals and its leadership without gauging the overseas public mood and its repercussions declaring 'dual nationals' ineligible for such contest. That to me is unwise, unacceptable and weaker position based on moral high ground emanating from supreme Court decision. The myth of Aristotle wisdom as if, 'they are the only 'national security protectors' is rarely a sale item.

I think Mian Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari should feel pity on those 8 million overseas residents who have a genuine unsolved issue, i.e Right to vote & representation, and get on with it and solve in the Parliament. Their simple demand is that Overseas Pakistanis are acknowledged in its true spirit befitting to their contribution; and Dual Pakistani nationals Should be allowed to Cast Vote; and Dual Pakistani nationals be allowed to contest elections and hold public office and are given seats in the Parliament; and Article 63(1)(c) is amended to read as, “ 63(1)(c) he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, and acquires the citizenship of a foreign State."

In order to effect these changes necessary consultation is carried out taking into confidence the overseas Pakistanis about legislative and procedural changes. There is no need to impose a view, and there is no degree of loyalty to state as all citizens are required to be loyal to the state under article 5 of the constitution 1973. So these politicians must listen to what people are saying. If not close the nurseries in overseas for political leadership as the need end soon the demand evaporates.

Barrister Amjad Malik is a chair of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK).

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