Dual nationality by Dawn Editorial

PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan has taken the right step to order all advisers and special assistants to the prime minister to declare their assets and nationalities. This step is in line with his long-held position on ensuring transparency in the running of the government. The declaration of these assets and nationalities may have triggered a debate but it is the right debate to have in order to settle some long-standing issues and bring much-needed clarity to the prevailing ambiguity. The most glaring instance of such ambiguity is the issue of dual nationals working in important government positions.

Article 63 (1)(c) of the Constitution very clearly states that people holding dual nationalities cannot become members of parliament. This means elected members of the cabinet can also not be dual nationals. However, non-elected members who sit in cabinet meetings have so far evaded this restriction. It may be time to review this anomaly. The logic behind disbarring dual nationals from holding positions that enable access to classified information is a sound one. Legally speaking, dual nationals have split loyalties because they have taken an oath of allegiance in two countries. This logic can easily be applied to those non-elected people who sit in cabinet meetings and exercise executive functions in the running of ministries and divisions. They may argue — as some have — that they are not proper members of the cabinet and are invited by the prime minister for each meeting, but this is at best a technical argument aimed at justifying the anomaly. The advisers and SAPMs have the same access to policymaking and classified information that other cabinet members enjoy. This makes their role within the government as dual nationals highly problematic.

This is not to say that dual nationals cannot contribute to public service in the country. Pakistan has a very large diaspora across the world and many overseas Pakistanis continue to excel in their respective fields. Their talents and experience can be invaluable for public service. However, if such service were to include elected responsibilities then parliament will need to review the bar against dual nationals contesting elections. But even if parliament voted to amend the constitutional provision and allow dual nationals to become legislators, it would still be difficult to apply the same logic to both elected and non-elected members of the cabinet on account of their access to sensitive matters of state. It is then morally wrong for dual nationals to stay as members of the cabinet. Now that it is officially known which SAPMs within the federal cabinet hold dual nationality, it is advisable for the prime minister to review their status in the light of his own previously held position against dual nationals in key positions. The prime minister should find their replacements and utilise their services in any capacity outside the cabinet. He should live up to his own words.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.