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Senators call for dual nationality bar on judges

December 21, 2012

A view of the Senate in session. — File photo

ISLAMABAD, Dec 21: Members of the parliament’s upper house on Friday called for legislation to place a bar on appointment of lawyers with dual nationality as judges and sought details of judges holding foreign citizenship.

What prompted the PPP Senator and President Asif Ali Zardari’s spokesman to raise the issue in the house was Law Minister Farooq Naek’s response to a question about eligibility of citizens having dual nationality for appointment in the judiciary. Mr Naek had informed the Senate last month that there was no bar on superior court judges holding dual nationality.

Speaking on a motion moved by him to discuss the implications of the answer, Senator Farhatullah Babar demanded suitable legislation to bar dual nationals from becoming judges and also called for making public the names of dual nationals in the judiciary, if there were any.

“Our judges are most honourable and I do not believe that any one of them has taken oath of allegiance to the constitution of any other country but it is necessary that the law minister be asked to make a categorical statement,” he asserted.

Senator Babar said the Constitution clearly disqualified a person from being a member of the parliament if he ceased to be a citizen of Pakistan or acquired citizenship of a foreign state, pointing out that a number of MPs had already been disqualified for possessing dual nationality. Not only that, the lawmakers were asked to file fresh declarations which they did without hesitation in deference to the court.

The Senate had recently been informed that persons holding dual nationality were not eligible for appointment in the armed forces of Pakistan. About persons with dual nationality in government service also, it had been told that a candidate having dual nationality must surrender his/her nationality and inform the government before joining the civil services academy.

Mr Babar questioned the rationale of allowing dual nationals to become judges of superior courts and asked why there was an exception in the case of judges.

He said that judges exercised extraordinary powers over all organs of the state. It was unimaginable that there were judges who had sworn allegiance to the constitution of other states and yet would exercise such vast powers over the elected parliament and other state organs in Pakistan. “No, I do not believe it. It cannot be. It is unimaginable.”

Senator Babar sought an explanation from the law minister saying that his reply in the Senate had raised serious questions that needed to be answered.

Senator Saeed Ghani endorsed this view and said the bar was a must as the judiciary was rendering important decisions. He was asked by the chairman to remain confined to the subject when he referred to a decision on Kalabagh dam and observed that it could lead to anarchy.

Former law minister Babar Awan said the articles about judges were silent on ineligibility, and noted that it should be looked into when amendments were introduced in the Constitution.

Hafiz Hamdullah of JUI-F opposed appointment of dual nationality holders in all institutions. “The judiciary says that half Pakistanis were not acceptable. Should this be applicable only for the parliament,” he remarked and said “eunuchs in the parliament were not acceptable to us as well”.

PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani said there should be no discrimination and anyone who drew salary from the federal consolidated fund should be a Pakistani.