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A Tale Of Two Senators.

The spree of disqualifications of parliamentarians by the Supreme Court continues on to its second year. After the disqualifications of Nawaz Sharif, Jehangir Tareen and Haneef Abbasi, this time the victims are Senators Haroon Akhtar and Sadia Abbasi- both coincidentally from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The basis for the disqualification of Haroon Akhtar and Sadia Abbasi was their alleged dual nationality at the time of filing of nomination papers- although both claimed to have tried to give up their Canadian and US nationalities respectively. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar noted that at the time of filing their nomination papers, both retained dual nationalities and thus, gave the orders of disqualification under Article 63 (1)(c) of the 1973 Constitution, which pertains to a person's disqualification from Parliament due to holding the nationality of a country other than Pakistan.

While this judgment is technically abiding by the law- although a strong case could be made for the senators considering Canadian nationalities cannot be revoked once granted- the application of such strict liability to the constitutional clause on disqualification of parliamentarians' causes further confusion to the already messy law. For the past year, the Supreme Court has switched from applying strict liability to the clause- as in Nawaz Sharif's case- to a more liberal interpretation- as in the case of Khawaja Asif; with this recent case, more inconsistency has been added to the precedent of this law. There shouldn't be such unpredictability with the application of such an imperative law- whose misuse could have dark implications for democracy.

There are many examples of public office holders with dual nationality. This recent disqualification prompts the question on how many other disqualifications will follow suit-, are all government office holders barred from being citizens of another country or only some in specific categories? Do bureaucrats and ministers fall under the same yardstick? Perhaps the most glaring example is that of Zulfi Bukhari- who despite very famously being a dual citizen- was granted special assistant-ship to the Prime Minister on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development. Despite Bukhari's appointment being high-profile and attracting negative attention due to his British nationality, he was still appointed, and petitions to the Court for his disqualification were dismissed.

It is hoped that the SC provides further clarification to the use of Article 62 and 63 in any upcoming review- otherwise, expect more chaos and confusion in the application of this law.

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Publication:The Nation (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:Oct 19, 2018
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