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July 20, 2020

Heated debate expected in parliament on dual nationality of SAPMs and advisers

National

July 20, 2020

Opposition has decided to work on two-prong strategy while challenging the retaining of such dubious characters in the fold of the federal government. Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: The united opposition in the two Houses of Parliament will raise the question of constitutional status of dual nationality holders and foreign based/linked special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs) and advisers forcefully.

Well-placed parliamentary sources told The News here on Sunday that the leaders of the opposition groups have concluded their mutual consultations in the matter, and they have decided to work on two-prong strategy while challenging the retaining of such dubious characters in the fold of the federal government.

As first step, the opposition members will raise the question through privilege motions and point of order in Senate and National Assembly both today (Monday) when the houses will commence the proceeding. The second step is pertaining to challenge validity of having such person/persons as SAPMs and advisers in the government.

The opposition leaders are of of the view that the apex court through its verdict had disqualified members of the Parliament belonging to the opposition who had been holding foreign citizenship, but in one instance, a distinguished lady member of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Senate gave up the foreign nationality before going for contesting. She was deprived the membership of the House in 2019 on account of nationality question although she had quit it earlier. It paved the way for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to bring its member in the Upper House in her place. The lady was Barrister Saadia Abbasi who is sister of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The opposition has obtained the verified copies of the dual nationality and assets of the office holders. The top legal experts of the opposition are studying so gathered documents and a petition will be submitted in the superior courts for determination of the constitutional status of the persons in question. They are going to urge the apex court to take suo motu notice of the appointments as these are detrimental for the national interests.

The sources pointed out that the ruling party has also evolved counter strategy to tackle opposition’s agitation. The government will have support from the chair, but opposition will not budge to any pressure and tactic. The proceedings of the two houses could be noisy although top leaders of the two sides wouldn’t “grace” the occasion. The opposition sources have alleged that some office holders have concealed their assets and hidden their dual nationality. The appointment of few “technocrats” like governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) are also being challenged by the opposition members, the sources said.

Interestingly, some members of Parliament including ministers are also facing legal action in the court of law for misstating their assets and nationality. A federal minister from Karachi is also among the parliamentarians who are facing legal action and being grilled by the opposition.

According to available information, out of 19 non-elected cabinet members, seven special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs) hold dual nationalities. They are: SAPM on Political Affairs Shahbaz Gill (United States), SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar (US), SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari alias Zulfi Bukhari (United Kingdom), SAPM on National Security Moeed Yousuf (US), SAPM on Power Division Shahzad Qasim (US), SAPM on Parliamentary Coordination Nadeem Afzal Gondal (Canada) and SAPM on Digital Pakistan Tania S Aidrus (Canada and Singapore).