ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Abdul Rehman Malik became on Monday the second casualty of the action being taken by the Supreme Court against lawmakers holding dual nationality when his Senate membership was suspended. As a consequence he will also lose the coveted position of federal interior minister.
The first to go was Farahnaz Ispahani whose National Assembly membership was suspended by the court on May 25 on her admission that she was a US citizen.
“We are of opinion that he (Rehman Malik) had acquired citizenship of UK and his membership of Senate is hereby suspended with all consequences,” pronounced Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who heads a three-judge bench hearing a case relating to parliamentarians holding dual nationality.
The court issued the order after Advocate Azhar Chaudhry, representing Rehman Malik, had shown reluctance to submit a declaration by the UK’s Border Agency to establish that his client had surrendered the British nationality.
The court also noted that the process of renouncing British citizenship had been started by Rehman Malik on May 29 much after the present proceedings and that he was a foreign national when he submitted his nomination papers to become PPP senator. Therefore, the order said, Mr Malik was not qualified to contest the Senate elections under Article 63(1 c) of the Constitution which disqualifies a person as member of the parliament who ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan or acquires the citizenship of another country.
The court also made it clear that it had neither disqualified Farahnaz Ispahani nor did it intend to disqualify Mr Malik.
“According to the constitutional provision, the disqualification is inherent and I believe that Rehman Malik may also face criminal prosecution under perjury for allegedly producing false affidavit before the court,” commented Advocate Muhammad Waqar Rana.
Since the disqualification is inherent, the role of the chairman of Senate will also not come as was done in the case when National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza had issued a ruling on May 24 to save Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from being disqualified after his conviction in the contempt case.
But there were speculations in the parliamentary circles that Rehman Malik may be appointed as adviser to the prime minister on internal affairs as was done when elections of Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain as senators came under cloud forcing the government to indemnify their elections, along with others, through the 20th Amendment.
But the prime minister’s media wing was silent on the issue and only said that since the prime minister had reached Islamabad from Quetta late Monday evening, no decision could be taken.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the government would comment on the Supreme Court verdict only after going through the detailed judgment. He stressed the need for reviewing the law relating to dual nationality. Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House, he said that a number of Pakistani nationals had been working on higher posts in the UK.
The Supreme Court also issued notices to 14 other parliamentarians and members of provincial assemblies belonging to the PPP, PML-N and MQM and asked them to submit replies to allegations levelled by petitioner Advocate Waheed Anjun that they possessed foreign passports.
The notices were issued to PML-N MNAs Khawaja Asif and Anusha Rehman (having nationality of Canada), MQM’s Farhat Muhammad Khan (USA), PPP’s Senator and Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (USA), Deputy Chairman of Senate Sabir Ali Baloch and MNA Zahid Iqbal (UK).
Mian Abdul Rauf, the counsel for Zahid Iqbal, denied the allegation and said his client never had any foreign passport.
The MPAs from PML-N include Dr Muhammad Ashraf Chauhan (Great Britain), Muhammad Akhlaq (USA), Chaudhry Waseem Qadir (Norway) and Chaudhry Nadeem Khadim (UK); from PPP Tariq Mehmood Alloana and Dr Ahmed Ali Shah (UK) and Amna Buttar (USA) and from MQM Nadia Gabol (UK).
According to the petitioner, these members have violated Section 14 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 and Article 63(1 c) of the Constitution. He sought a court order for the Foreign Office secretary to provide details of all legislators holding dual nationality.
During the proceedings, Attorney General Irfan Qadir insisted that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to suspend or disqualify any lawmaker and its earlier decision to suspend the membership of Farahnaz Ispahani was also without any authority.
“This argument is not available to the AG at this stage,” the court observed.
Earlier, the court had provided ample opportunity to Rehman Malik to submit the required information.
On Monday also the court provided his counsel the last opportunity to provide the information which he failed to do so. He only submitted a document in which the UK Border Agency had informed Mr Malik that it had started processing his request to renounce under the British National Citizenship Act 1981. The counsel requested the court to send the document to the British border office for verification.