PESHAWAR: A bench of the Peshawar High Court has ruled that a dual national cannot be barred from contesting local government elections under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2014.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Wiqar Ahmad and Justice Kamran Hayat, ruled that acquiring dual citizenship of the country notified under section 14 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, does not deprive a person of Pakistan’s citizenship and such an individual is eligible to contest local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The bench ruled the Local Gover­nment Act (LGA) did not bar a person from contesting elections or be an office-holder of a local body established under the act if the individual acquired citizenship of another country.

It further held that Article 63(1) ( c ) of the Constitution, which barred a person from becoming member of parliament if he acquires citizenship of another country, cannot be applied to local government elections.

The bench gave its findings in its detailed judgement on a petition filed by Malik Mohammad Nawaz challenging the candidature of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Sardar Shuja Nabi for the slot of Abbottabad’s mayor on the ground that he had nationalities of Pakistan as well as Australia.

The bench had rejected the petition last month and allowed the respondent to contest the polls. Shuja Nabi won the seat in the polls held on March 31.

Justice Wiqar Ahmad, who authored the judgement, dwelt at length on the issue of dual nationals contesting local government elections and cited judgements by superior courts in Pakistan and India.

The bench did not agree with the petitioner’s stance that Article 63 of the Constitution would be deemed to have been applicable to the local bodies’ elections and therefore, the respondent would logically be ousted from the contest.

No disqualification spelt out

The petitioner’s counsel had contended that since Section 78 of the LGA had only spelt out qualifications, and not disqualifications, Article 63 should be applied to fill the vacuum in the law for local bodies elections.

He contended that a dual national would have divided loyalties and should not be allowed to contest elections to a post like mayor.

Advocate Sardar Nasir Aslam Khan, representing the respondent Sardar Shuja, stated his client’s dual nationality would not debar him from contesting local government elections as Section 78 of the LGA had not spelt out any disqualification.

He contended that such a bar could not be imported to a law as it had not been specifically provided.

The bench ruled that while there was a provision in Section 109 (2) (i) of the Punjab LGA 2019 of barring a dual national from contesting polls, no such provision was available in the KP law.

The bench also addressed a question: “Whether a person on acquiring nationality of a foreign state may still remain a citizen of Pakistan?”

“In this respect, Section 14 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, l95l, lays down criteria wherein a general principle has been provided that if a person acquires citizenship of any foreign country, he shall lose citizenship of Pakistan, but while providing such general principle, certain exceptions have also been provided,” the bench observed.

“One of those exceptions, which is important for our present discourse, is that such an exception shall not be deemed to have applied to a person who is also a citizen of the United Kingdom, its former colonies or such other country as the federal government, by notification in the official gazette, specifies in this behalf.”

The bench ruled that acquiring citizenship of countries notified by the government should not strip a person of his status as a Pakistani citizen, but if the individual acquires citizenship of any other state not included in the notified list he should lose citizenship of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2022

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