ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has ordered Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri to submit required documents pertaining to his dual nationality and regarding his claims of being a stakeholder in Pakistan's democratic system.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justices Gulzar Ahmed and Sheikh Azmat Saeed, was hearing on Monday Qadri’s petition for the reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The petition calls for the reconstitution of the commission on the basis that the ECP's chief and four members were not appointed according to the provisions of the constitution.
Qadri argues that their appointments are therefore void ab intio, and pleads the court to restrain the commission from functioning pending a decision in the case.
During Monday’s proceedings, the apex court grilled Dr Qadri over the status of his Canadian citizenship with repeated queries revolving around his locus standi against the composition of the ECP.
The chief justice said knowledge of Qadri’s nationality was pertinent for the court in order to proceed further with the case.
Qadri informed the court that he was both a citizen of Pakistan and a Canadian national. He informed the court that he had attained Canadian nationality in 2005 when he resigned from the National Assembly. He added that he had applied for citizenship in 1997.
“Can the government of Pakistan, with all respect to you, allow such a person to retain its citizenship?” the CJ posed a question.
“One thing is clear: you can not be a member of parliament, because, according to the constitution, a dual-national can not become a lawmaker,” said Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The bench inquired if he had acquired foreign nationality due to any threats, to which he replied that he had not attained Canadian nationality on the basis of any dangers to his life.
“After acquiring citizenship, one has to take an oath of allegiance,” remarked the chief justice. “How can somebody who takes an oath of allegiance to another country be loyal to Pakistan?”
“If I seek allegiance of a foreign country, then how can I say that the parliament which represents the will of 18 million to 20 million people, is suffering from flaws,” he observed.
Qadri maintained that under Pakistan’s constitution, he was not allowed to contest elections and enter into parliament but under the relevant laws, he could retain his Pakistani nationality.
Qadri added that he had appeared before the bench as a voter, as the law differentiates between a voter and an elected representative.
To a query by the bench, Attorney General Irfan Qadir informed the court that a dual nationality holder could approach the SC under the provisions of fundamental rights and there was no such bar.
He said that he would oppose the contentions of the petitioner, but he should be given an opportunity of putting up his case.
The bench ordered Qadri to submit in court documents pertaining to his Canadian nationality, and adjourned further hearing to Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters later outside the SC, Qadri said that the Pakistani constitution allows voters to hold dual nationality.
“The law prohibits only elected representatives from holding dual nationality. However, according to the law, a Pakistani voter can hold nationalities of certain countries,” he said.
Earlier today, Qadri said he did not believe his petition could lead to a delay in the upcoming general elections, adding that his objective was to ensure that transparent polls be held in the country.
Qadri said the ECP had to fulfill the criterion of transparency in accordance with the Constitution.
Legal analysts and political commentators are attaching great importance to the case, saying serious issues raised in it may entail judicial intervention and delay the elections.