ISLAMABAD, Nov 24: After the parliamentarians, armed forces personnel and civil servants, judges may now have to face the dual nationality bar.
Dawn has learnt that a draft 24th Constitution (Amendment) Bill is being prepared by the Law Ministry which aims to bar the judges from possessing dual nationality and the same will be presented during the next session of Senate along with the 22nd and 23rd Constitution (Amendment) Bills.
The government had planned to put the 22nd Constitution (Amendment) Bill and the 23rd Constitution (Amendment) Bill to vote on Thursday but it failed to muster the required number of senators in the 104-member house.
The first of these bills lifts the bar on the holders of dual nationality to contest the general election and the other bans the government employees with dual nationality from continuing to hold their posts.
Through the proposed 24th Constitution Amendment Bill, the government intends to amend Articles 177 and 193 that outline the criteria for the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts, respectively. If the bill is adopted by both houses of parliament, the judges in higher courts will be given 90 days to decide whether they want to retain their post or the citizenship of a foreign country.
When contacted, Awami National Party’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Haji Mohammad Adeel confirmed that the government was preparing the bill that bars the judges from possessing dual nationality.
The senator, whose party is behind the move to bring the civil servants and the judges under the bar, said the PPP had assured them that the new bill would be introduced in the next session of the house.
On Nov 13, Law Minister Farooq Naek had informed the house in response to a question from Pakistan People’s Party’s Senator Sughra Imam that there was no bar on a Pakistani citizen with a dual nationality from being appointed as a judge.
The issue of dual nationality surfaced when in September the Supreme Court disqualified several legislators for holding citizenship of foreign countries and later the Election Commission of Pakistan directed all legislators in national and provincial assemblies to submit fresh affidavits stating they did not possess the nationality of any other country.
In July, an Inter-Services Public Relations handout said that “as per military rules, no one in service is allowed to have dual nationality”. “If someone has dual nationality, he will have to surrender his foreign nationality before joining the services,” it said.
The PPP-led ruling coalition comprising the ANP, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League-Q, PML-F and Balochistan National Party-Awami last week failed to put the 22nd Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2012 to the vote for a lack of two-thirds majority.
Besides the opposition parties, the ANP had also opposed the bill, saying it would only support it if the government also brought another amendment bill putting a bar on dual nationals to become a government servant.The 23rd amendment bill seeks to amend Article 240, saying “the government servants in BPS-20 or equivalent and above” in the services of federation and all the provinces “shall not hold dual nationality or citizenship of any foreign country.” It further says that any government servant holding dual nationality “shall renounce the same within thirty days of the coming into force of the Constitution (23rd Amendment) Act 2012”.
The 22nd Constitution Amendment Bill seeks to amend Article 63 dealing with the disqualification of the members of parliament. It not only allows the dual nationals to contest the general election, but also nullifies recent orders of the Supreme Court disqualifying several legislators for possessing dual nationality as it will have a retrospective effect from Nov 1, 2007.
The draft, however, suggests that after contesting and winning the elections, the dual nationality holder will have to renounce the citizenship of other country before taking oath as the legislator.
Haji Adeel said the government had agreed to increase the 30-day period to 90 days to provide ample time to civil servants to make a final decision about their future. He said that sitting legislators having dual nationality would also be given 90 days to make such a decision.
The opposition parties, mainly the PML-N and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, oppose the government’s move to introduce the dual nationality bills on the grounds that it has come at a time when elections are only a few months away.