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‘Ill-prepared’ minister lands himself in trouble

October 11, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Oct 11: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senators on Thursday put their own government in a tight spot on the issue of dual nationality when a minister failed to explain to them the relevant arrangements with other countries, particularly the United States (US).

Two key party senators — Sughra Imam and Raza Rabbani — put the Minister of State for Interior Imtiaz Safdar Warraich in hot water when they repeatedly demanded to know how could a Pakistani remain a “Pakistani national” if he or she had to renounce the same while taking oath as a citizen of the US.

Seemingly confused over a number of penetrating questions, the minister kept on asking the members to submit a fresh notice, confirming the criticism by the Senators that he had not come prepared to answer the supplementary questions during the “Question Hour”.

The minister’s plea for fresh questions was, however, rejected by Chairman Nayyar Bokhari who directed him to come prepared with the details related to the dual citizenship agreements which Pakistan had signed with other countries on the day when the questions related to his ministry would come up again before the house.

The issue came under discussion at a time when the PPP and the MQM, the two ruling coalition partners, have been vying to amend the Constitution to allow the dual nationality holders to contest the election and become a member of the parliament.

Under the Constitution, no dual national can become member of the Parliament and the Supreme Court has recently disqualified a dozen legislators for submitting wrong affidavits at the time of elections.

It all started when Mr Warraich through a written reply informed the house that Pakistan had dual nationality arrangements with 16 countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada, France and the US.

He also provided the dates of signing of agreements with all the countries.

He told the house that Pakistan had signed the dual citizenship agreement with the US on August 29, 2002 during the previous regime of military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf and that no such accord had been signed by the present PPP government with any country.

Quoting from the oath of allegiance which a person has to administer while accepting the US citizenship, Sughra Imam said the agreement did not seem in conformity with the Constitution and the country’s laws.

She said while taking oath as US citizen, a person had to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty” of whom he or she “have heretofore been a subject or citizen”.

The PPP senator questioned as to how it was legally and constitutionally possible that a person could remain the citizen of Pakistan after renouncing it.

PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani, who is known for his anti-US sentiments, took the floor and drew the attention of the house that under the same oath of allegiance, the aspirant of the US citizenship was also required to declare that he could even pick up arms in defence of the US.

“How can we justify such an agreement and how can a person remain loyal to the constitutions of two countries at the same time?” he asked.