ISLAMABAD: The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday gave the last chance to Senator Faisal Vawda to explain the concealment of his foreign nationality.

A three-member bench of the commission headed by Chief Election Commis­sioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, while hearing a petition seeking disqualification of the ruling party senator over failure to disclose his foreign nationality at the time of submission of his nomination papers for the 2018 general elections, gave Mr Vawda the last chance and adjourned hearing till Dec 23.

Mr Vawda’s counsel could not attend the hearing due to a family member’s illness.

“If no one attends the next hearing, we will reserve judgement,” the CEC warned, saying the commission had to conclude pending cases and begin preparations for the next elections.

The CEC gave Senator Vawda the option to either submit his arguments to the commission in writing, in which case the bench would reserve its ruling, or present the arguments himself so the bench could issue a verdict.

During the hearing, he noted that it had been established that Mr Vawda possessed a dual citizenship and if he had renounced his foreign nationality, he should submit a renunciation certificate.

Senator Vawda contended that he possessed dual citizenship from birth. At this, the CEC pointed out the issue was whether he possessed a dual citizenship at the time of filing his nomination papers for contesting the 2018 elections.

Mr Vawda said he had already surrendered his American passport, but in the same breath feigned ignorance about the law regarding renunciation of the nationality of any country. He maintained he was not aware of the requirement to submit a renunciation certificate as well, saying he would try to obtain one now.

Regarding the submission of a copy of his alleged renunciation certificate by the petitioner at a previous hearing, Mr Vawda said: “Seven such certificates are circulating on social media. Which one of these should I consider to be the right one? I don’t know how the petitioner got the certificate.”

He sought more time to submit his reply and pleaded to the bench to dispose of the case.

During the hearing, the ECP Sindh member also rebuked the assistant counsel representing Mr Vawda over his failure to submit a relevant file. “They have decided not to let the case proceed,” he said.

The CEC noted that the Islamabad High Court, where the plea for Vawda’s dismissal was originally filed, had directed the ECP to conclude the case within two months. “We have to start preparing for the next general elections as well and will not let the proceedings be delayed anymore,” he stressed.

During the last hearing on Nov 11, the bench had set Dec 2 as the date for final arguments.

The petition, filed in 2020, challenged Mr Vawda’s election as a member of the National Assembly in 2018, claiming he was a US citizen at the time of filing his nomination papers.

The petition said since Mr Vawda had furnished an affidavit to the ECP claiming he was not a national of any other country at the time of contesting the elections, he had made a false statement on oath, hence he must be disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

Vawda had resigned from his NA seat hours before he was elected as a senator in March this year.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2021

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