ECP reserves verdict on petitions seeking Faisal Vawda's disqualification

Published December 23, 2021
PTI Senator Faisal Vawda appears at the Election Commission of Pakistan. — DawnNewsTV
PTI Senator Faisal Vawda appears at the Election Commission of Pakistan. — DawnNewsTV

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday reserved its verdict on petitions registered against PTI Senator Faisal Vawda calling for his disqualification due to concealing his dual nationality.

The News reported in January 2020 that Vawda was a dual national at the time of filing his nomination papers to the ECP to contest the 2018 general elections. Vawda submitted his nomination papers on June 11, 2018, which were approved by the election body a week later on June 18, the report said. However, the PTI MNA applied for the renunciation of his nationality with the US consulate at Karachi four days after the fact on June 22, 2018, the report revealed.

Qadir Khan Mandokhel, Mian Faisal and Mian Asif Mehmood subsequently filed petitions in the ECP on January 21, 2020, seeking Vawda's disqualification. A citizen, Dost Ali, also filed a similar petition in 2020 challenging Vawda's election as a member of the National Assembly. The petition stated that when Vawda filed his nomination papers for contesting elections, he held dual nationality as he was a US citizen as well.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja headed the three-member bench, comprising Shah Muhammad Jatoi and Nisar Ahmed Durrani that heard the case.

Barrister Moeed, counsel for Vawda, submitted the senator's birth certificate in the ECP. He said Vawda was born in California and was an American citizen by birth. "Faisal Wawda had his foreign passport cancelled before submitting his nomination papers," he said, adding that the senator had not lied.

Durrani questioned him regarding the date of the passport's cancellation while the CEC pondered if the passport's cancellation amounted to the elimination of citizenship as well.

The lawyer said it was written in the returning officer's (RO) order that the foreign passport was cancelled.

Mandokhel, who was present in the hearing as well, said today was the 23rd hearing in the ECP which had been seeking answers for the last 1.5 years but had not received any.

"The RO gave a wrong order on dual citizenship in the 2018 [general] election. The RO rejected my [nomination] papers instead of rejecting Faisal Vawda's," Mandokhel said.

Jatoi asked him if he had challenged the decision in any verdict and asked him to satisfy the bench on taking the matter up directly in the ECP. The CEC remarked that Mandokhel had said at the last hearing that arguments were complete but now he was mentioning new things.

The petitioners wrapped up their arguments against Vawda as Barrister Moeed started his final arguments.

He argued that Vawda had obtained a normal identity card from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) prior to the general elections 2018. "His Nicop (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) being cancelled and Nadra's confirmation prove that he was not an American citizen," he said.

The CEC questioned whether Nadra was authorised to verify whether anyone was a foreign citizen or not.

The lawyer responded that Nadra only issued identity cards after verification with the Intelligence Bureau.

Vawda also said that there was no dual citizenship holder who had a normal identity card, adding that such an individual would not even be able to open a bank account.

"If Faisal Vawda is no longer even an MNA, then how can there be disqualification on this petition?" his counsel argued. "Qadir Mandokhel deliberately approached the wrong forum to conduct a media trial," Barrister Moeed said as he wrapped up his arguments.

Vawda said that as an MNA candidate he was not well informed about the law. "I am being dragged for no reason, the opponents did not go to any tribunal," he said.

The ECP dismissed Mehmood's petition on grounds of non-compliance and reserved its verdict on the other three petitions.

Dual nationality case

Following the report about Vawda's dual nationality, a petition was submitted to the Islamabad High Court seeking his disqualification. The court had directed the PTI leader to submit a reply.

Despite the issuance of several notices, he did not responded to the petition. In March 2021, Vawda resigned as an MNA on being elected as a senator and his lawyer contended that a dual nationality case against the lawmaker was "not valid now".

However, the IHC held him responsible for submitting a false affidavit regarding his nationality and directed the ECP to proceed against him under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution that deals with disqualification.

In November, the senator filed a petition with the IHC seeking to stay proceedings of the ECP in his disqualification case but the court rejected the appeal.

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