ISLAMABAD: A draft bill seeking to allow dual nationals to contest elections is ready and will be shortly debated in the two houses of parliament.
This was disclosed by Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati while speaking to Dawn after he addressed a news conference at the National Press Club.
He said the draft bill sought to find a middle way and proposed to conditionally allow the dual national to contest polls. He said those who won, would have to renounce their foreign nationality before taking the oath as a lawmaker.
Mr Swati said that he held a meeting with President Dr Arif Alvi and discussed the issue of granting the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis. He said overseas Pakistanis were an asset of the country.
He said a proposal to give representation to the overseas Pakistanis on different boards of governors was also being considered. “If the new generation can serve in the United States and Europe, why should we not benefit from their expertise,” he remarked.
Says if new generation can serve in US and Europe, why Pakistan should not benefit from their expertise
The decision in principle to allow dual nationals to contest elections had been taken by the federal cabinet in its meeting on Friday held with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair. A committee had also been formed to initiate the legal process for the new amendment.
During the meeting, the cabinet members were of the view that allowing overseas Pakistanis to participate in the voting process would be in the country’s best interests.
The prime minister, during the meeting, asked the relevant ministries as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan to come up with a comprehensive programme for giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
The decision, if implemented, will require an amendment to the Constitution as its Article 63 (c) reads: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state.”
“The ECP had started the process of registration of overseas Pakistanis as voters, but it stopped for some reasons. Now the PM has directed the ECP and other relevant departments to restart the process of registration of overseas Pakistanis on a war footing,” Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters while briefing on the decisions taken by the cabinet.
Allowing dual nationals to contest elections will require amendment to Article 63(1) of the Constitution.
Earlier, while addressing the press conference, Mr Swati asked media persons to use their pen with a sense of responsibility. He said that the media could not serve democracy unless it performed the oversight role. He added that the media had no right to level baseless allegations against any individual.
The minister said a person named Hafeezullah Niazi during a TV programme on GEO on July 6 claimed that he (Azam Swati) was facing an insurance fraud case in the United States. He said the baseless accusation had damaged his credibility.
Mr Swati said he had filed a case against Mr Niazi as well as GEO TV with Pemra and intended to file defamation suit against them claiming Rs1 billion in damages. He said the person who made the allegation would have to apologise to the viewers in the same programme to avoid further legal action, or prove the allegation.
He said he had gone to the United States in 1978 and remained there till 2001. “I have no case against me for the last 45 years,” the minister maintained.
He also criticised former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar for creating circumstances that forced him to resign as minister in November 2018, claiming that Justice Nisar wanted to enhance his stature by punishing an aide to Prime Minister Khan.
Mr Swati had to resign after the ‘illegal’ transfer of the inspector general of Islamabad police following a dispute with his neighbours. The minister said had been a high court advocate since 1978 and understood that what had been done to him was not lawful.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2019