IT is an emotional topic and has some roots in a narrow constitutional exclusion that the superior judiciary has interpreted as an absolute bar, but it is an issue that deserves closer examination. The law as interpreted by the Supreme Court bars the elected representatives of the people, in parliament, the provincial assemblies and the presidency, from holding dual nationality. While the law does permit Pakistani citizens to also be citizens of certain other countries, the weight of public and official opinion appears to have shifted against elected representatives holding citizenship of a second country. The general argument against the people’s representatives holding dual nationality is public perception and official suspicion. According to this, the honour of representing the people must only be afforded to someone with absolute and undivided loyalty to the country, while the nature of elected representation means that sometimes issues of national security have to be dealt with. Therefore, the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan must only hold citizenship of Pakistan.

Indeed, the general argument can be and is being extended to all public officials, elected or unelected, in legislative assemblies or anywhere else in the state apparatus. A re-think is needed. Against the emotive argument of perceptions of loyalty and the blanket suspicion of threats to national security can be set the real-world experience of the last decade of democracy. In what episode or incident over two full parliamentary terms can it categorically be stated that dual nationality would have impeded an elected representative from performing his or her duties? The vast majority of an elected representative’s responsibilities are public and open to scrutiny. Pakistan has a large diaspora and is integrated with much of the outside world. Dual nationals should not be demonised. If they seek to serve the people of Pakistan, they should be allowed to do so by the law, although an exception can be made in the case of cabinet ministers who are required to take an oath of secrecy.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018

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