Issue of dual nationals

July 23, 2020

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Since the day the Cabinet Division released the details of the assets and nationality status of 20 advisers and special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs), there has been a debate ongoing on the pros and cons of having the people with dual nationalities in the cabinet. A Cabinet Division`s notification states that of 19 non-elected cabinet members, seven SAPMs are dual national, which include very vocal people such as Shahbaz Gill (SAPM on Political Affairs), Nadeem Babar (SAPM on Petroleum), Syed Zulfikar Bukhari (SAPM on Overseas), Moeed Yousuf (SAPM on National Security), Shahzad Qasim (SAPM on Power Division), Nadeem Afzal Gondal (SAPM on Parliamentary Coordination) and Tania Aidrus (SAPM on Digital Pakistan). All of them are wealthy and have all or most of their assets abroad. Are these credentials to disqualify them from sitting in the cabinet as advisers and SAPMs? The constitution does not hold any bar on dual nationals from holding such titles. The whole discussion directed at the inclusion of the dual national people in the cabinet is misplaced for several reasons. The world is fast becoming a global village where religion, ethnicity, colour, race, gender and nationality matter the least. Every country welcomes skilled and talented people who could contribute to their development and progress. Most of the developed nations have adopted inclusive culture, encouraging diversity in all spheres of lives. These developed nations have allowed diaspora to contest elections and become minister or mayor. The success of our diaspora in Europe and North America in business indicates the acceptance of those countries for dual nationals and giving them equal opportunities to excel. We should stop being isolationist and be ready to embrace the people who want to serve the county.

The government has done a good step by opening up the detail of advisers and SAPMs, and this should be hailed as a right step towards open government. Such disclosures enhance the prospects of accountability and good governance. But the debate on the dual nationals will not go away unless the constitutional bar remains there. Article 63 (1)(c) of the Constitution states “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”. When a dual national cannot become a member of parliament, they have no right to sit on the cabinet. Also, the matter of divided loyalty cannot be ignored.

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