ISLAMABAD, May 30: As four Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) parliamentarians risk losing their National Assembly membership as a punishment for having dual nationality, the Punjab Assembly took a stand before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, stating that its rules did not require it to collect such information about its members.
According to a statement submitted to the SC by Additional Advocate General Jawad Hassan on behalf of the provincial assembly, no “information/record respecting the dual nationality of the members of provincial assembly of the Punjab” is required, “hence, no such information is available with” the provincial assembly secretariat.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain took up a petition submitted by Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi, questioning the dual nationality of four legislators -- Interior Minister Senator Abdul Rehman Malik, Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal, Chaudhry Iftikhar Nazir and Farahnaz Ispahani, the wife of former ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani. Ms Ispahani’s membership was suspended by the court on May 25.
Hearing the case of Rehman Malik
During the proceedings, the court rejected the documents submitted by the interior minister to the effect that he had renounced his British citizenship on April 25, 2008. The papers were not certified or duly stamped. “It’s just a piece of paper,” the court observed.
The minister had attached a copy of a cheque depositing 229 British pounds in fees paid to renounce the citizenship by his wife, Saeeda Rehman. But the cheque bore the name Saeed, instead of Saeeda. The court, therefore, ordered Rehman Malik’s representative, Advocate Azhar Chaudhury, to submit a certified copy along with a receipt as formal evidence by Thursday, to prove that he had renounced his foreign nationality. It noted that the counsel failed to deliver the declaration that the court had sought.
“You are showing us the form. Show us the declaration renouncing citizenship,” the chief justice said.
The court also asked Attorney General Irfan Qadir to collect a notification from the Senate Secretariat to ascertain the name that the minister used in his nomination paper i.e. whether he used Abdul Rehman Malik or A. Rehman Malik as mentioned in the cheque.
Referring to the case of MNA Zahid Iqbal, his counsel Advocate Mian Abdul Rauf presented a copy of the passport, but the court noted that he had not submitted his previous passport with the court in which indefinite leave to enter Britain was issued.
If the member is not a UK citizen then he should first surrender his British passport and then submit an affidavit acknowledging that he did not have any other passport except that of Pakistan.
“Why is he not telling the truth,” the court said. The court appreciated that Farahnaz Ispahani at least had the courage to tell the truth.
“No-one is entitled to obtain more than one passport,” the court observed and asked the member to submit the required documents by June 4.
During the proceedings, the AG argued that only the executive had the authority to proceed against the members if any questions regarding disqualification arose. Therefore the matter should be referred to the executive in the same way as cases regarding judges were referred to the Supreme Judicial Council.
The chief justice disagreed, saying that the matter was of public importance since the members collectively represent 180 million people in the country.
The AG replied that billions of dollars sent home as remittances by overseas Pakistanis were also a matter of public importance. The AG pointed out that remittances could be adversely affected. According to Mr Qadir, overseas Pakistanis will be better served if people – like the dual nationals under scrutiny – sat in parliament.
The court said it respected Pakistani expatriates, but pointed out that the four or five people under scrutiny did not need to be compared with expatriates. “Besides, those who want to become chief executives need to respect the law.”
The AG said he had written a letter to the law ministry seeking information regarding the dual nationality of legislators, but was yet to receive a reply. The court directed the AG to directly communicate with different assemblies instead of waiting for the reply of the law ministry.
When the court recalled the case of Jamshed Dasti who had to resign as MNA on a court’s intervention, the AG said the court needed to examine whether it had the right to disqualify members.
The Punjab Assembly said in its statement that after the oath of members, the assembly secretariat required the members to provide information about date and place of birth, parentage, marital status, party affiliation, educational qualification, political career etc. Such forms do not contain any column for nationality as such information is not required by the Rules of Procedure of Provincial Assembly of the Punjab 1997, which governs the conduct of the assembly.