Federal Minister for Interior Senator  Rehman Malik talking to media persons after a hearing in Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Photo by INP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court came down hard on legislators holding dual nationalities and slammed the door on them from becoming lawmakers again.

The court disqualified 11 members of parliament and provincial assemblies on Thursday, but spared Interior Minister Rehman Malik for the time being. The only sentence Mr Malik received for submitting a false declaration was a court observation that he could not be considered sagacious, righteous, honest and ameen.

However, like other lawmakers, the minister will be facing legal proceedings by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which may entail a punishment of up to seven years and also require him to reimburse all monetary benefits drawn by him up to July 11, 2012, for the period he occupied the public office.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain which had reserved its ruling on Monday on a petition of Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi announced the short order on Thursday. The detailed order will be issued later.

The verdict asked the ECP to obtain fresh declarations on oath from the legislators to examine their cases individually.

Four of those disqualified by the court under Article 63(1c) of the Constitution for possessing dual nationality are members of the National Assembly and seven of provincial assemblies of Punjab and Sindh. The MNAs are: Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal (UK nationality) and Farahnaz Ispahani (USA) of the PPP, Farhat Mehmood Khan (USA) of the MQM and Jamil Ahmed Malik of the PML-N.

The MPAs who have been sent home are: Mohammad Akhlaq (USA), Dr Mohammad Ashraf Chohan (UK), Chaudhry Waseem Qadir (Norway) and Chaudhry Nadeem Khadim (UK) of the PML-N from Punjab, PPP’s Ms Amna Buttar (USA) from Punjab and Dr Ahmad Ali Shah (UK) from Sindh and Ms Nadia Gabol (UK) of the MQM from Sindh.

The court ordered the ECP to de-notify the politicians straightaway because no reference was required from the National Assembly speaker or Senate chairman to the CEC under Article 63(2) of the Constitution, as was done in the case of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in view of the established fact that they had acquired citizenship of foreign states.

Hours after the announcement of verdict, the ECP de-notified the membership of the legislators.

The politicians were found guilty of corrupt practices in terms of Section 78 of the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA) 1976 and the court directed the CEC to initiate legal proceedings against them under Section 82 of the RPA which envisages a jail term of up to three years.

The cases will also be registered against them under Section 193 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which asks for a punishment of up to seven years for providing false evidence during judicial proceedings; Section 196 for using evidence known to be false; Section 197 for issuing or signing false certificate; 198 Section for using as true a certificate known to be false; and Section 199 for false statement made in declaration which is by law receivable as evidence.

The disqualified legislators have been asked to return what they have earned from the exchequer. Like Rehman Malik, they will also refund all monetary benefits drawn by them for the period during which they occupied the public office and emoluments drawn from the public exchequer, including monthly remunerations, TA/DA, facilities of accommodation along with other perks which will be calculated in terms of money by the secretaries of Senate, National Assembly and provincial assemblies.

The amount will be deposited in the public exchequer within two weeks after which a compliance report will be submitted to the SC registrar.

Referring to Mr Malik’s case, the court noted that at the time of filing nomination papers for the Senate elections in 2008 he had made a false declaration that he was not a foreign national, although he renounced his foreign citizenship later to contest the Senate elections again in 2012.

Therefore, the order said, a reference be made under Article 63(2) of the Constitution and Section 99(1f) of the RPA which asks for disqualification of a member for not being righteous and sagacious.

The court clarified that Article 63(p) of the Constitution should be adhered to because the disqualification incurred by Mr Malik was envisaged under the law in view of his statement that he had renounced his UK citizenship on April 25, 2008, when in fact he did so in May 25, 2012.