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Dual nationality is not a crime

Welcoming Prime Minister Imran Khan to a meeting of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) at Peshawar some time ago, I had asked that the country utilize the skills, training, and qualifications of the Pakistani diaspora to the fullest. Any efforts to make them feel alienated must be discouraged.

Overseas Pakistanis are seemingly revered, often called national assets in the national discourse. Their close to twenty-eight billion dollars in remittances annually are a most critical component of the economy of the country.

Any talk of giving them equal space and opportunity within Pakistan, however, suddenly makes their loyalties suspect and their status relegated to second-class citizens.

To discredit those with dual nationality, an argument is often made that the majority of remittances come from the Middle East from expatriates working on a visa. This differentiation is purposely made as at least for the time being, vested interests do not see the less educated labour class as a threat to their space. But the moment they perceive them as competitors in any way, all love will be lost for them as well.

It is the superior qualifications, sincerity, and unqualified love for the country of the vast majority of dual-nationality holders that these vested interests fear. False patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

The refrain is the same. Dual nationals should not have any right to a job, political office, or any equal opportunity with the rest of the people. They are cash cows only. The term ‘dual nationality’ is often used in a pejorative manner in the media and when argued in the courts.

The Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 explicitly allows a citizen of Pakistan to hold dual nationality. Its section 14(3) expressly allows dual citizenship to Pakistani nationals.

Acquiring dual nationality through honest means is neither a crime, nor does it downgrade anyone to the status of a second-class citizen. Some however seem to think that the moment one takes oath of allegiance with another country, his or her privileges and rights as a Pakistani somehow automatically diminish.

Dual nationality does not make anyone a lesser or inferior Pakistani than those with single nationality.

If anyone harbors any doubt about the legality of dual nationality, the patriotism of dual nationality holders or thinks of them as being lesser Pakistanis, they are best advised to read the landmark judgment of the Honourable Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah in the ‘Malik Munsif Awan vs Federation of Pakistan’ case of 2020.

The honourable chief justice was unambiguous in his detailed judgement. Brushing aside doubts and scepticism against the appointment of a dual national as special assistant to the prime minister, Justice Minallah affirmed that “[The] patriotism of a person who is a citizen of Pakistan cannot be doubted or suspected unless the state can demonstrably and without a shadow of doubt establish otherwise”.

He asserted that: “A person who holds dual nationality is indeed a citizen of Pakistan and thus his or her commitment to Pakistan or patriotism cannot be doubted”.

There is no basis whatsoever for doubting the loyalties of Pakistanis holding dual nationality.

The only restriction that the constitution imposes on Pakistanis with dual nationality is being elected or chosen as members of parliament or the provincial assemblies.

Specific statutes disqualify dual nationality holders from only a very few employment categories in the services of Pakistan. Dual nationals, for example, cannot be employed in the Pakistan Armed Forces.

Why then question the dual nationality of highly qualified professionals like doctors, engineers, scientists, or teachers? Why do we not argue about merit? It is most likely because there is nothing to complain regarding competency or merits.

Pakistanis with dual nationality have legitimate grievances that they are discriminated against; their status as dual nationality holders used to portray their loyalties to the country suspect and hateful propaganda spread against them.

The former CJ of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar went on a witch hunt and ordered lists of federal and provincial officers holding dual nationality. Highly skilled professionals were needlessly maligned in the media.

Failing to find anything in the law against dual nationality, Justice Saqib Nisar praised Pakistanis with dual nationality for their services. He nonetheless still opined that “the issue of dual nationality does raise concerns regarding loyalty”.

The remark was whimsical, biased, and not rooted in evidence or law.

It was heartening then to see Justice Minallah unequivocally settling the question with the Supreme Court subsequently upholding his judgment.

There has been talk about giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote in elections. The right to vote must be granted if the integrity of the balloting process can be ensured.

The right to vote is a smaller issue though. The bar on dual nationals for contesting elections is discriminatory and the government must introduce legislation to repel it.

The argument that dual nationality holders should not be allowed to sit in parliament because of ‘divided loyalties’ is condescending and absolutely without merit.

The overwhelming majority of problems confronting the country since its founding in 1947 have been caused not by dual nationality holders but by those with single nationality. How are the single nationality holders sitting in parliament better Pakistanis than dual nationality holders in any sense? Is there any objective evidence to that effect?

A Pakistani with dual nationality in all probability would never leak sensitive information as they know the importance of such matters. Even if it is somehow accepted that dual nationality holders are not to be trusted with classified information, they can be excluded from the membership of sensitive committees or even from

sitting in the cabinet. A blanket ban on membership of parliament, however, is without reason.

Even more absurd is the case of membership of the provincial assemblies. These almost never discuss classified matters relating to national security. How does national security get compromised when health policy or a municipal sanitation scheme is being debated?

Pakistanis with dual nationality do not ask for any privilege different from those with single nationality only. They just want to be treated at par. The hateful propaganda against them must be stopped.

It is not the first-generation expatriate Pakistanis but the second, and third, and fourth generations that are the most fervent supporters and best ambassadors for Pakistan around the world.

One only needs to look at cricket grounds in England whenever Pakistan is playing. The majority of the most enthusiastic Pakistani supporters are those Pakistanis that might not ever even have visited Pakistan. They may not speak Urdu, yet they chant “Pakistan Zindabad” most loudly.

Do not alienate them.

Pakistani expatriates may not have unlimited resources, but they most certainly have unlimited love for the motherland. Treat them as equal and no lesser Pakistani than others.

Dr Arshad Rehan, "Dual nationality is not a crime," The News. 2021-08-26.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Dual nationality , Political office , Parliament , Citizenship , Elections , Malik Munsif Awan , CJ Athar Minallah , Pakistan , North America , APPNA