Only those committed to Pakistan should lead it

20 Apr

According to the News today:

NA bill to hit MPs with dual nationality

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Q on Tuesday introduced a bill in the National Assembly that seeks the disqualification of parliamentarians and members of the federal and provincial government who hold dual nationality and own foreign accounts and property. The bill also applies to the armed forces and judiciary.

The private member’s bill, moved by PML-Q parliamentarian, Raza Hayat Hiraj, was not opposed by the Pakistan People’s Party chief whip and Federal Minister, Syed Khurshid Shah, and was referred to the concerned standing committee of the House. Shah claimed no PPP leader had dual nationality or foreign accounts and property.

The bill applies to all individuals who maintain an account in their own name or in the name of spouses, children or dependents. It also applies to those who hold a dual nationality or have permanent resident status of any other country, whether in their own name or in the name of spouses, children or dependents. The bill applies if an individual holds an office of profit or interest in any company or organisation established in a foreign country. It applies to any individual who owns any property whether free hold, lease hold or even in the form of licence, assets or shares or any interest in any company based in a foreign country, whether in his own name or in the name of his spouse, children or dependents, and if he/she carries out business, including any commercial activity, in any organisation or establishment based in a foreign country, whether in his own name or in the name of his spouse, children or dependents.

I picked up this issue about a year back and wrote the following about it. I am glad to see that legislation is being moved to make this happen. Have not read the proposed legislation in this regard so cannot comment on it but this seems like a move in the right direction. Here is the article I wrote on it about a year back:

The Citizenship of the Leadership

In order to become a member of parliament in Pakistan, one needs (or rather needed) a bachelor’s degree (this could be real or fake – according to the chief minister of Balochistan, there is no difference), lots of money, political connections, dubious morals and the right surname.

One can either be born into such good fortune or marry into it. Post the accident of birth or arrangement of fortunate marriage the path to political power is fairly straight and we have been hounded by the specters of dynastic and incompetent politics since Independence. So I began to wonder, if the constitution had any safeguards to prevent us from such inept leadership.

A quick study of the document revealed that there is a whole list of conditions under which a person is rendered ineligible to run for political office. The conditions range from corruption to insanity. Interestingly, the one condition that the document is vague on is the issue of citizenship, particularly dual citizenship. According to the constitution, one can be disqualified from being elected to parliament if, “he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state …”

I’m not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer at all – but even to my untrained eyes, this language seems vague. So while we require political leadership to be sane and moral we don’t require them to be only Pakistani? Pakistan allows its citizens to hold dual nationalities so why deny politicians this legal right?

Because in Pakistan where the popular slogan ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ (long live Pakistan) has changed to ‘Pakistan se zinda bhaag’ (run away alive from Pakistan), holding only Pakistani citizenship by choice is either sheer stupidity or a pretty significant commitment to the people and the country. And as taxpaying citizens of the country, we should demand, at the very least, this commitment from those who we entrust with public office.

I grew up in Islamabad, where over the years I observed the long lines outside of foreign embassies grow longer and longer, a silent testimony that escaping from Pakistan was the first priority for many. In a country where people die of poverty and hunger each day while our leaders house rare Siberian tigers in air-conditioned cages – it is not odd that people want to escape? In a country where minorities are persecuted of minorities and there is hardly any safety of property or life, often the only option left is to run away.

I don’t have a problem with those who want to leave and build for themselves a better life. I have no problems with those who want to hold dual citizenship but live in Pakistan because this is where their heart belongs. But I do have a problem with those, who want to lead, live in style on taxpayer money, make decisions on behalf of the 170 million people of this country but hold in their hands, an easy exit strategy – dual citizenship.

Dual citizenship denotes that the person has a significant allegiance to or interest in another country. And while this is not a bad thing on its own, it is not the most desirable quality in a public representative. Public office holders should have only one allegiance, and it should be to the country and people that they represent. And those who aspire to leadership positions in the country should be required to give this commitment. Steering Pakistan’s future is a pretty big responsibility and it should not be granted to those who are not ready to show single-minded allegiance to the cause.

Also, leaders with foreign passports are like foreign capital – they flee when the going gets tough! Those who know they are unable to flee are more likely to act in the long-term interest of the nation and less like fickle foreign investments. So before you ask for my vote – please assure me that when the going gets tough you will not run and, if this ship sinks you are prepared to sink with it. Only captains willing to sink with their ship will do everything in their power to keep it afloat.

Unfortunately, for far too long, we have written off our politicians as a lost cause. We have stopped demanding of them the commitment that we as citizens deserve. And a good place to start would be demanding a show of commitment to the country by requiring all public office holders to hold only Pakistani citizenship. I am sick and tired of politicians who reap the benefits of the country and build business and property in foreign lands. I am tired of big-wigs being imported from abroad who treat the country like their personal political experiment and then leave when the country fails to respond as they wanted.

So can someone please take note of the constitutional vagueness that allows subjects of her Majesty, Queen of England or those that have pledged allegiance to the star-spangled banner from running for political office and making decisions on behalf of the people of Pakistan?

This was first published on the Dawn Blog at:

Sehar Tariq is Pakistani citizen (only) who wishes we had better and more dedicated leadership. She blogs at


2 Responses to “Only those committed to Pakistan should lead it”

  1. Nadir El-Edroos (@needroos) May 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    One problem I have with arguments that those who have dual citizenship can easily skip town is, that what stops those in power, with only Pakistani citizenship from doing exactly the same. Its not as if influential, politically connected and wealthy Pakistanis are not internationally mobile. Which politician, senior civil servant or general doesn’t have a flat/house in Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc, a residence visa with it? Not to mention that many Pakistanis would have permanent rescidence visas who can leave at any time.

    Also, when it comes to dual nationals, their second nationality doesnt offer them immunity within their home country. So for example, a UK citizen in Pakistan, if he holds office in Pakistan faces all the laws of the land regardless of his UK citizenship. The UK government for example would not intervene.

    For the powerful, their second nationality is convenient, but does not alter their mobility by much.

    When you say that those will foreign passports will flee, and those who stay will make long term investments, people in Pakistan who are in a position to make such investments or are in a position to make decisions that can affect the course of the country can pack up and leave whenever they like.

    The issue is of enforcing the law, which no one wants to do. Second, third or fourth nationality is irrelevant.

    As for captains willing to sink with the ship, well again powerful Pakistanis, with single Pakistani citizenship who are in a position to make decisions that could potentially “sink the ship” are not bound in anyway by the fate of their decisions. Their mobility is akin to a global elite which is extremely mobile.

  2. Dr.N.A.Siddiqui May 26, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    Its very correct BUT did you know the foregn remittances from abroad to Pakistan . BUT I still agree that they should not be allowed to contest election & be involved in GoVT. functionaries. Their allegiance & loyalty always remains with their Roots BUT still if they are resident in Pakistan permanently EVEN though they may carry DUAL Nationality I see no harm if they contribute to National affairs & associate themselves . PML (Q) did not think of NO other important issues . Hopeless Lowest visionaries cannot think Big . In fact they have nothing to contribute . No Policy , No future vision & loyalty to noone , Disgraceful these politicians . Waseem Sajjad is another disappointmenbt. & of course the Speaker & PEON (P.M) . & all those Bearded stooges . And many many many of them in that lovely aughusd building . Sinful do not deserve those seats . They have to be evicted sooner the better . Best Wishes N.A.Siddiqui

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