ISLAMABAD: In spite of being partners in the PPP-led ruling coalition, ANP legislators joined PML-N senators to storm out of the Senate as a mark of protest against the government’s tabling of the bill to allow dual nationals to contest elections in Pakistan.
Senators of both parties agitated and wanted the Chairman Senate Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari to put the bill to the House to ascertain whether or not the bill, called the Constitution (22 Amendment) Bill, 2012, introduced by the law Minister Farooq H Naek, should be referred to the House standing committee. But this demand was ignored, prompting the legislators to exit the House.
ANP parliamentary leader Haji Muhammad Adeel and Muhammad Zahid declared in categorical terms that they could not support any bill that would pave the way for persons like Mansoor Ejaz or Moeen Qureshi to become legislators or even ministers. Senator Zahid asked for the withdrawal of the bill, saying they would not back it come what may.
Haji Adeel said that even war-ravaged Afghanistan had a law under which an Afghan national, having dual nationality, first had to renounce his other nationality to take part in elections; why then should Pakistan go for such a highly sensitive arrangement, on which the ANP had serious reservations.
Senator Adeel initially barred the law minister from introducing the bill, as he and other ANP senators protested over not being taken on board on the bill and wondered when the 21st Amendment Bill was moved in parliament. “Despite being a coalition partner, we don’t know how and when this was tabled; it may have been in the darkness of night,” he quipped.
PPP Senators Aitzaz Ahsan and Mian Raza Rabbani left Law Minister Farooq H Naek speechless when they questioned the inclusion of the US in the list of 16 countries with which Pakistan had agreements on dual nationality. Both said any national who wanted to become a US citizen had to declare on oath to take arms against his original (renounced) country to defend the US if a need arose.
Rabbani preferred not to speak after the chair’s ruling of the bill’s referral to the concerned standing committee of the Senate. However, he could not help saying that the agreement with the US was improper, as an individual quitting his own country’s nationality to become a US citizen had to pledge to take up arms in defence of the US even against his own country of origin.
PML-N veteran Senator Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, in a speech tinged with emotions, recalled how Iran’s Prime Minister Dr Mossadeq had wept after some of his country’s legislators had blocked legislation to take over the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. They did so because they were on the payroll of the UK, he added.
He recalled the Iranian PM had to dissolve parliament after certain lawmakers, who took advice from abroad, became a hurdle in the way of the country’s bid to retrieve its own assets.
The PML-N lawmaker reminded members how the East India Company had moved into the subcontinent and then gradually occupied it and took over its resources. He said flowery speeches and bogus justifications could not pave the way for the amendment of a law, which was enacted after thorough pondering by the makers of the 1973 Constitution, which was one of the achievements of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Referring to 16 countries with which Pakistan had agreements, he wondered if these nations would allow Pakistanis to become members of their parliaments and then become ministers. He cited the example of Moeen Qureshi, who served as caretaker PM, got his Pakistani ID card after becoming prime minister and then tried to locate the graves of his parents, buried in Pakistan.
Another PML-N Senator Zafar Ali Shah insisted that such a document should have not reached the desk of the chairman Senate and said a terrorist, who had killed 15 innocent people, enjoyed the right to vote even in Adiyala jail but could not take part in elections. Likewise, Pakistanis with dual nationality had the right to cast their vote in elections but in no way should be permitted to take part in the electoral process.
MQM’s Tahir Hussain Mashhadi urged for the referral of the bill to the standing committee, where members having reservations could speak against it, saying he might have reservations against the bill as well.
Earlier, the law minister read out the names of the 16 countries, which included Australia, US, Canada, Italy Belgium, Ireland and New Zealand and said over 90 percent Pakistanis opted for dual nationality for the sake of jobs but they were patriotic and their hearts and minds were with Pakistan. The bill will enable them to take part in politics back home, he noted.
A call attention notice of Senator Farhatullah Babar was deferred after the Minister of State for Defence Sardar Saleem Haider sought its deferment. The notice pertains to the unauthorised sale of a 85 kanal piece of land by the Pakistan Navy leased to it in 1995 by the Capital Development Authority.
The minister assured the House there would be a discussion on the proposed amendment when the concerned standing committee would take it up and said the government wanted legislation after reaching a consensus. He contended that senators had the right to propose amendments in the proposed legislation.
INP adds: Later on, the bill was referred to the corresponding standing committees and the session was prorogued till 5pm today (Wednesday).