The foreign passport that PTI leader Vawda submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as proof of the renunciation of his US nationality was already expired, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday.
The observation was made by Justice Ayesha Malik, who was part of a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and also comprising Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, hearing Vawda’s appeal against his disqualification for life under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.
In February, the ECP disqualified Vawda for concealing his US citizenship and directed him to return the salary and other benefits he had received as a minister and as a member of the National Assembly, within two months. It had also de-notified him as a senator.
During today’s hearing, his lawyer contended that the returning officer (RO) had seen Vawda’s cancelled passport.
“But the cancelled passport that you are relying on was expired,” noted Justice Malik. She said the cancelled passport was submitted to the RO in 2018, but it had expired in 2015.
“When you get a new passport made, the older one is stamped as cancelled,” Justice Malik added.
“How can a cancelled passport be proof of renunciation of a nationality?” she asked.
Moreover, she noted that the passport numbers of the one on record and the one cancelled were different.
“It is evident by different numbers that a new passport was issued after being long overdue,” she said.
Following her observations, the CJP remarked that this matter had become “very serious”.
Justice Masoor commented that “another of Vawda’s lies is out in the open”.
Vawda’s lawyer then contended that the text of the affidavit — which Vawda had submitted at the time of the filing of his nomination papers for a National Assembly constituency — elaborated that the PTI leader did not hold the passport of another country.
At that, Justice Shah said the mention of the “passport in the affidavit meant having the nationality of another country”.
The lawyer then argued that the ECP did not have the authority to disqualify a person for life.
But the high court does have the authority to disqualify an individual for life, replied Justice Shah.
Vawda’s lawyer sought more time from the court for preparation.
At that, the court adjourned the hearing, with Justice Shah commenting, “You will not have answers to these questions even next week.”
The confirmed date of the next hearing is yet to be issued.
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 after 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 which 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.
Vawda’s counsel, Barrister Moeed, had then submitted the senator’s birth certificate to the ECP, stating that his client was born in California and was a US citizen by birth.
In February, the ECP disqualified PTI Senator Faisal Vawda as a lawmaker over the concealment of his dual nationality.