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SC bars govt officials from holding dual nationality

Updated December 16, 2018

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The court also ordered the federal and provincial governments to "develop criteria and standard operating procedures requiring disclosure of the intent to seek such foreign nationalities and permanent residence permits and adopt methods to check such instances and enforce penalties for nondisclosure". ─ File photo
The court also ordered the federal and provincial governments to "develop criteria and standard operating procedures requiring disclosure of the intent to seek such foreign nationalities and permanent residence permits and adopt methods to check such instances and enforce penalties for nondisclosure". ─ File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Saturday declared that persons with dual nationality could not retain important government positions as they should choose between a government job and a foreign nationality.

The court also ordered the federal and provincial governments to “develop criteria and standard operating procedures requiring disclosure of the intent to seek such foreign nationalities and permanent residence permits and adopt methods to check such instances and enforce penalties for nondisclosure. Such criteria and standard operating procedures could possibly be incorporated into the existing efficiency and discipline rules/regulations etc by way of amendment or be adopted independently”.

In its judgement on the issue of dual nationality possessed by government officials and members of the judiciary, a three-member bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan also addressed the appointment of former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif to a position in a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition and sought the record relating to any approval given in his case after his superannuation.

The bench held that in case no proper approval was given to him by the federal cabinet, Gen Sharif would “no more” be the head of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.

In judgement, bench raises issue of appointment of former army chief Raheel Sharif to position in Saudi Arabia-led military coalition

The court order said: “With respect to General (retired) Raheel Sharif, documents were filed showing No Objection Certificates (NOC) from the General Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence, but according to Section 3 of the Act of 1966, it is in fact the federal government (or a person or authority authorised by it in this behalf) which can grant permission to an ex-government servant to seek or take up employment as an officer or servant of a foreign government or a foreign agency; and according to the law laid down by this court in the judgement reported as Messrs Mustafa Impex…the federal government means the cabinet and the said judgement was in the field when the NOCs were granted... Let the secretary, Ministry of Defence, file a report in this regard within one month from the issuance of this judgement and in case the requisite NOC is not granted by the federal government within such time the foreign employment of General (retired) Raheel Sharif shall cease with immediate effect.”

With regard to the alleged foreign employment of former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence retired Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the verdict reproduced a certificate of September 25, which was submitted to the court and which certified that he “did not take any foreign posting/assignment in the UAE or elsewhere abroad after retirement”.

The apex court had taken suo motu notice of the holders of dual nationality in government employment and among members of the judiciary and sought reports from registrars of the Supreme Court and high courts and the federal and provincial government departments about persons with BPS-17 and above. It had also constituted a committee to look into the matter. The committee was headed by the director general of Federal Investigation Agency and included the chairman of National Database and Registration Authority; director general for immigration and passports; secretary of the interior ministry, additional secretary of Establishment Division; and member (administration) of the Federal Board of Revenue.

According to the report, there are 1,116 persons with dual and foreign nationality in government service. A total of 1,249 spouses of government officials have also been identified during the investigation.

The apex court proposed to the federal government that “proper course would be for the parliament to consider the following proposals in the light of existing law discussed... the government should formulate negative list(s) of posts within government service to which citizens holding dual nationality, or whose spouses are dual nationals, should not normally be appointed for reasons of safeguarding national security and/or vital national interest, except with the permission of the respective cabinets”.

The judgement suggested that the list of persons with dual nationality “should be placed before parliament and the respective provincial assemblies at the end of each financial year. Furthermore, there should be list(s) of posts (decision-making/top managerial posts perhaps) within autonomous/semi-autonomous statutory bodies/organisations and companies etc, which are owned/controlled/governed by the federal and/or provincial governments, to which citizens holding dual nationality or whose spouses are dual nationals, should not normally be appointed”.

According to senior counsel Barrister Masroor Shah, the verdict has put the responsibility for formulating and implementing policies about persons with dual nationality on the federal and provincial governments.

He is of the view that the judgement may not affect dual nationals in the cabinet because the court has empowered the federal and provincial cabinets to identify the posts which may be assigned to holders of dual nationality.

“The federal and provincial governments should, preferably in conjunction with each other, develop criteria and standard operating procedures with regard to the employment of non-citizens within the government service where relaxation from the general prohibition is deemed necessary in the public interest. The employment of non-citizens should be subject to approval of the respective cabinets,” the court order said.

The federal government should also be required to submit annual reports to parliament with regard to the enforcement of the Act of 1966 prohibiting employment of ex-government servants with foreign governments and agencies, the court said.

As per the verdict, a government official acquires foreign nationality “to securely dispatch ill-gotten gains procured during service and to relocate their families and/or themselves during service and/or after retirement. Such individuals deserve no leniency. After determination by the competent authority, such officials must be given a deadline of either rescinding their foreign nationalities obtained during service or resign from service immediately. This is intended to send a strong signal to all officials in the employment of the Government of Pakistan at any level that they must not deceive Pakistan by breaking the trust that they have been bestowed upon by virtue of their office”.

About personnel of the armed forces, the apex court observed that according to the defence secretary the recruitment of dual nationals was not permitted, for which there existed instructions/policies of the army, air force and navy. However, the secretary was required to continue the exercise to ascertain whether any dual nationals had been recruited in the armed forces on the basis of mis-declaration, concealment or non-disclosure and requisite action be taken in accordance with the law by the authority concerned.

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh in Lahore contributed to the report

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2018