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Spying janitors

October 17, 2012

NOW that we’ve established lawmakers should not be dual nationals, let’s extend this principle to government-employed janitors, gardeners and peons too. They might, after all, overhear details about the actual pace of development of our nuclear programme or what we really think about China while they are watering the plants or fetching tea. Who knows whom they might leak such sensitive state secrets to. Speaking of which, the bureaucrats they would be fetching the tea for should also obviously come clean about any other passports they might be concealing as a way to cover up their divided loyalties. As should the chairman of the proposed federal drug regulatory authority, so that he or she is in no danger of colluding with foreign pharmaceutical firms.

The truly unfortunate part of all this is that none of it is made up. Punjab has asked all government employees, from top bureaucrats to support staff, to submit proof they are not dual nationals — despite the fact that as Pakistani citizens they have the right to simultaneously maintain the passports of certain other countries. Meanwhile, the opposition has demanded in the National Assembly that the person in charge of the much-needed central drug regulatory authority not be a dual citizen. There, is, of course, a simple explanation for this extension of the principle to jobs far from the country’s top public offices (which it makes sense to limit to those who have no other passports): demonise dual nationality and earn populist credentials while positioning yourself in opposition to a ruling party that doesn’t even want legislators to have to meet the constitutional, and far more justifiable, requirement that lawmakers not be dual citizens. So what if this strategy results in a witch-hunt of dual nationals who quite legally happen to work anywhere in government? If it serves a political purpose, no initiative is too absurd.