ECP disqualifies PTI's Faisal Vawda in dual nationality case

Published February 9, 2022
Senator Faisal Vawda addresses a press conference in Islamabad in this file photo. — Radio Pakistan
Senator Faisal Vawda addresses a press conference in Islamabad in this file photo. — Radio Pakistan

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday disqualified PTI Senator Faisal Vawda as a lawmaker over concealment of his dual nationality at the time of contesting the National Assembly election on a Karachi seat in the 2018 general elections.

The ECP also directed Vawda to return within two months the salary and other benefits he had received as a minister and parliamentarian. It also withdrew the notification declaring Vawda's victory on a Senate seat in polls held last year.

The vote Vawda had cast in the Senate polls held on March 10, 2021, as a member of the National Assembly was also "invalid", according to the short order announced by the chief election commissioner.

In the written order, the commission observed that a person holding a nationality or citizenship of another country was required to obtain a declaration form from the country in question regarding the renunciation of his nationality to qualify as a citizen of Pakistan.

The ECP noted that during this case, Vawda accepted that he did not hold any kind of declaration regarding the renunciation of his US nationality at the time of filing his nomination papers for the National Assembly in 2018.

This, the ECP said, means that the declaration he submitted as part of his nomination was "false".

"Another argument of the respondent that the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (Nicop) issued to him was cancelled on May 29, 2018 and a computerised national identity card (CNIC) was issued which confirms that he has lost his US nationality is forceless," the order said.

The commission said that the "mere surrendering of the Nicop or cancellation of the passport" was not proof of surrendering nationality as per law.

The ECP also observed that Vawda, at the time of filing his nomination papers for the National Assembly constituency, was not "an eligible/qualified person in terms of Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution and had submitted a false affidavit and declaration to this effect which squarely falls within the ambit of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution".

Article 62(1)(f), which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be "sadiq and ameen" (honest and righteous), is the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-judge SC bench on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case.

Likewise, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified on Dec 15, 2017 by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution translates into a lifetime ban on contesting elections.

The election commission also directed Vawda to refund all monetary benefits drawn during the period he occupied a National Assembly seat, held public office and drew emoluments from the public exchequer with the NA secretary within two months.

The ECP said that it was "a matter of record" that Vawda had filed a "false affidavit" along with his nomination papers in 2018 on the basis of which he contested the NA election and became a federal minister.

The commission noted that Vawda resigned from the NA on March 3, 2021, the day the Senate elections were taking place, when the case was being argued before the Islamabad High Court "which makes his conduct doubtful as he, in order to cover his guilt, resigned from the seat of the NA after casting his vote as MNA for Senate elections and presented himself for the seat of the Senate."

The ECP bench directed to withdraw the notification declaring Vawda a senator "on account of filing [a] false affidavit, misstatement/false declaration on oath".

Later in the day, the commission issued a notification denotifying Vawda as a senator.

The ECP had reserved its judgement on petitions seeking Vawda's disqualification on Dec 23 last year. The ECP bench had during the last hearing given Vawda the last chance to defend himself and explain his position.

'One more PTI wicket down'

Speaking to the media outside the ECP office in Islamabad, one of the petitioners, PPP MNA Qadir Khan Mandokhel, said he had been visiting courts for nearly four years in connection with the case. He thanked the PPP leadership for following the case and guiding him throughout.

He termed the ECP's directive to Vawda to return all benefits he had received as a parliamentarian a "very good precedent".

"I believe the first [card] of this puppet government has fallen," he said, adding that when PPP protesters would reach Islamabad during their planned long march next month, the PTI government would be "ousted".

Reacting to the development, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted, "One more PTI wicket down."

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed denied that the judgement was a "jolt" for the PTI, saying that Vawda would approach the Supreme Court.

"I am hopeful he (Vawda) would exercise his legal right," he added while speaking to the media in Islamabad.

Later in the day, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also downplayed the verdict, terming it "not a big thing".

Talking to reporters in Peshawar, Chaudhry said Vawda would approach the courts against the judgement disqualifying him. "Where is the storm? It has not occurred anywhere."

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.

A petition was also submitted to the Islamabad High Court seeking Vawda's disqualification. The court had directed the PTI leader to submit a reply.

Despite the issuance of several notices, he did not respond 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.

During the last hearing, Vawda's counsel, Barrister Moeed, had submitted the senator's birth certificate to the ECP, stating that his client was born in California and was a US citizen by birth.

The ECP judgement comes at a time when political temperatures are high in the country and the opposition parties are gearing up for a decisive movement against the present set-up under the PTI, both inside and outside parliament. Political experts believe that the ECP judgement would definitely have an impact on the country's future political scenario.

Additional reporting by Sirajuddin from Peshawar.



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