FEDERAL Water Resources Minister Faisal Vawda’s continued absence from the Election Commission’s hearing on the issue of his dual nationality speaks volumes for his views on due process. The minister has paid a Rs50,000 fine and even tendered an apology to the ECP for not attending proceedings, yet continues to skip hearings and prefers to send his lawyer instead. The entire saga has seen considerable foot-dragging by the minister, who most recently said he missed the hearing due to his mother’s poor health. Even if this a genuine reason, his multiple past absences and the ECP’s strong displeasure over his repeated postponements paint the picture of a lawmaker hoping to somehow evade legal proceedings. Not only has Mr Vawda avoided appearing before the ECP himself, a switch in lawyers mid-case has prompted criticism about delaying tactics. The case itself is fairly straightforward: if candidates for parliament do not renounce their second citizenship and the application is not approved by the other country at the cut-off date for filing nomination papers, they do not qualify for contesting elections. Last year, a report surfaced which suggested that Mr Vawda may have been in possession of a US passport at the time he filed his nomination papers in June 2018. It is therefore a matter of Mr Vawda and his lawyers appearing before the authority and presenting their defence with evidence to avoid disqualification.

The fact that the minister is being fined for repeated adjournments and still avoiding the ECP does not speak well of his respect for the election body. It is remarkable that a member of parliament, and that too one who is a sitting federal minister, has decided to adopt such a haughty approach to proceedings. Even if one were to put aside the merits of the case, Mr Vawda’s persistent disregard for due process in itself is appalling. The minister should know that both as a matter of principle and optics, his approach to this matter is unbecoming of an elected representative.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2021

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