ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court on Wednesday wondered how former chiefs of the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence could take up foreign jobs without completing the mandatory gap of two years after their retirement.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, asked defence secretary retired Lt Gen Zamirul Hassan to furnish before the court no-objection certificates issued by the government to former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif and ISI director general Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha for joining foreign jobs.

The apex court wondered how the top officers of the armed forces, who were at the helm of affairs and privy to sensitive information related to Pakistan’s security, could accept jobs in other countries without completing the mandatory two-year period after retirement.

A senior government official on condition of anonymity said that federal government rules, as well as army rules, disallowed officers from accepting any employment without a minimum gap of two years after retirement or unless an NOC was issued by the federal government granting permission to join such services.

At the hearing of a suo motu case related to dual nationality of civil servants and judges, the bench issued notices to 27 civil servants with a direction to come up with an explanation for holding dual nationality. The SC also asked the defence secretary to furnish complete details about the dual nationality of all the commissioned officers in the armed forces and their spouses.

The defence secretary, however, explained before the court that no officer in the armed forces held foreign nationality.

The court asked him whether or not Lt Gen Pasha accepted a job in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) just a few days after his retirement whereas Gen Sharif also accepted the post of Commander of Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. CJP Nisar asked whether or not the ban on job without completing the two-year gap was also applicable to the two officers of the armed forces.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan explained that the federal government could give permission to government officers to join service in foreign lands.

The court remarked the federal government meant cabinet. The bench then asked the authorities to submit the NOC so that the court could examine whether or not the cabinet had granted the permission.

Earlier, the attorney general and Additional Attorney General Nayyar Abbas Rizvi told the court that the services of Pakistan should only be open to those whose sole allegiance was to the state of Pakistan.

The attorney general suggested that the parliament debated the issue but also emphasised that divided loyalty did not necessarily mean disloyalty to Pakistan. Moreover, as the restriction was not clearly stated, any constraint to be imposed by parliament ought to be prospective as retrospective application of this law would be unfair and severely damage the careers of a large number of people who otherwise were performing their functions with full commitment to this country. This would result in complete chaos and also affect the public at large, the AG feared.

He said this would also be contrary to the provision that the terms and conditions of the service of civil servants could not be altered to their disadvantage.

Alternatively, he added, parliament could provide that while dual nationals could join public services, certain officials/posts/positions would only be available to those who have only Pakistani citizenship.

These are fundamental issues which need to be debated in the parliament by people’s representatives, the AG stated, adding this could also be part of the highly desirable reforms of civil service structure.

The AG, however, explained that the Pakistan’s Citizenship Act, 1951, did not place any explicit statutory bar to restrict the entry of Pakistani citizens having dual nationality in the civil or public service. Their position was no different from those having no dual nationality, he added.

The official called for examining whether adoption of second nationality affected the discharge of the constitutional obligation envisaged by Article 5 of the Constitution (loyalty to the state) and whether Section 14(3) of the act, 1951 was fully compatible with Article 5.

There was no principled justification, the AG explained, to differentiate between those who made the laws and who must be citizens of Pakistan and of no other country and those who administered and enforced those laws.

About the argument that unlike parliamentarians, judges and members of the armed forces, civil servants were required to take oath under the Constitution, the AG explained that this did not exonerate civil servants from discharging their duties as their personal conduct was governed by the Government Servants (Conduct Rules) 1964.

The AG said the Constitution was not a haphazard collection of different articles rather a delicately crafted document that provided for a scheme for the governance of the people of Pakistan.

The trichotomy of power envisaging distribution of powers between the parliament, the executive and the judiciary was essential part of the scheme.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2018