IHC dismisses plea against dual national SAPMs

Updated 31 Jul 2020

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Islamabad High Court rules PM ought to have freedom to appoint officials or other persons for assistance. — Dawn/File
Islamabad High Court rules PM ought to have freedom to appoint officials or other persons for assistance. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed on Thursday a petition challenging the appointment of special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs) holding dual nationality, observing that the premier has every right to appoint as many assistants as he wants to run the affairs of the government.

The petition, filed by senior lawyer Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry, mainly argued that rule 4(6) of the Rules of 1973 was ultra vires of the Constitution. In the memorandum of the petition, the counsel also took the plea of dual nationality for seeking a declaration regarding disqualification of the respondents.

“The prime minister is the chief executive of one of the most important organs of the state and has to perform multiple/complex functions. A person elected as prime minister is answerable to the people of Pakistan and Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament),” the court observed.

The onerous role of the prime minister described under the Constitution cannot be performed by him alone. In order to enable the prime minister to transact business of the executive organ of the state, he ought to have the freedom to appoint officials or other persons for assistance, it added.

Court rules PM ought to have freedom to appoint officials or other persons for assistance

According to the court order, Rule 4(6) is one of such modes whereby the prime minister has been empowered to appoint special assistants. There is no restriction regarding the number of special assistants that can be appointed by the prime minster. There is also no restriction of appointing persons having dual nationality. The only restriction provided in the Constitution is under Article 63(1)(c) and it is confined to disqualification of a person from “being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-i-Shoora”, the order said.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed: “Disqualification is also attracted in case of the membership of the provincial assembly. There are some statutes, which prescribe renunciation of nationality of another state as an eligibility condition for employment.”

The court order said: “There is no such restriction for appointment of a special assistant under rule 4(6) of the Rules of 1973. The Rules of 1973 have been made and duly notified by the federal government in exercise of powers vested under Articles 90 and 99 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. Sub-article 3 of Article 99 empowers the federal government to make rules for the allocation and transaction of its business.

“It is pursuant to the said powers that the federal government has made the Rules of 1973 and has described the ‘Organisation of Divisions’ in rule 4. Sub-rule 6 of rule 4 enables the prime minister to appoint special assistant or special assistants and to determine their status and functions.”

The court noted that the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 expressly allowed a citizen of Pakistan to hold dual nationality as had been described in Section 14(3), adding that it was not fair to raise doubts or to be skeptical regarding the appointment of a dual national as a special assistant by the prime minister.

As per the court order, the importance and contributions made by dual nationals cannot be denied. The patriotism of Pakistani citizens holding dual nationality cannot be doubted. The Supreme Court has acknowledged the contributions of overseas Pakistanis in numerous judgements, it added.

“Patriotism of a person who is a citizen of Pakistan cannot be doubted nor suspected unless the state can demonstrably and without a shadow of doubt establish otherwise. A person who holds dual nationality is indeed a citizen of Pakistan and thus his or her commitment to Pakistan and patriotism cannot be doubted. A Pakistani citizen holding dual nationality is thus not ineligible or barred from being appointed by the prime minister as a special assistant under rule 4(6) of the Rules of 1973.

“Moreover, interference by this court would adversely affect the transaction of business of the federal government and prevent the prime minister from discharging obligations under the Constitution, thus warranting restraint,” the IHC order concluded.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Minallah slapped a fine of Rs10,000 on a petitioner seeking removal of President Dr Arif Alvi.

The IHC observed that petitioner Zahoor Mehdi had not worded the plea properly and never cited any tangible reason for seeking a decree against the appointment of the president.

Dismissing the plea, the court noted that such frivolous petitions burdened the courts and caused hurdles in the way of administration of justice.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020