Dual citizenship of public officials

On the second private members’ day, PML-Q’s Raza Hayat Hiraj presented a bill in the National Assembly seeking to disqualify parliament and provincial assembly legislators and members of the services who hold dual nationality, permanent residency, property or bank accounts in foreign countries, through a constitutional amendment. His key contention was that those who take an oath of loyalty with other countries could not safeguard the interests of Pakistan. According to Mr Hiraj, almost 10 percent of provincial and federal legislators have dual nationality. His bill has been admitted and sent to the relevant standing committee. PML-N member Tasneem Siddiqui tabled another bill, which seeks to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1976 to bar Pakistani citizens holding dual citizenship from contesting election to parliament or a provincial assembly.These bills come amidst a galloping trend among all and sundry, including national and provincial legislators and the services, not mention our elite, to get citizenship of another country, while retaining Pakistani citizenship.

The deteriorating security situation of the country has prompted many to think about their well-being and economic viability in a country that faces almost daily suicide bombings. Many have either moved abroad after selling their assets or have kept open the option of swiftly flying off to another country, having attaining dual nationality. However, for someone who takes the oath to serve the country through the civil, military, and judicial services or as a legislator, being a citizen of another country poses a dilemma because it involves an oath of loyalty to that country’s constitution, laws and interests, which in effect means divided loyalties. Some would argue that dual nationality gives elected and government officials leeway for escaping after misuse of public office for private gain. Therefore, Mr Hiraj and Ms Siddiqui have raised a pertinent question for debate in parliament. Raza Hayat Hiraj’s bill is comprehensive because it applies this principle across the board to both legislators and a member of the services. It also seeks the same bar on public officials’ spouses, children and dependents. However, this might be perceived as going a little overboard. Nevertheless, parliament can debate this issue and come to an agreement on whether to also put a bar on adult children in this law, who would then be bound by their parents’ choice of career.