Tag Archives: politicians

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? Continue reading


Weapons of Mass Display

7 Jul

Protesters at a rally to condemn the recent attacks on Data Darbar in Lahore

It seems only two kinds of people in Pakistan have protection, VIPs and the terrorists. The common people are left to fend for themselves as the bulk of our security forces are deployed in front of political and bureaucratic palaces. Given the state’s failure to provide security to common citizen, we’ve seen an increasing privatisation of this critical government function. Private security companies are flourishing in Pakistan. Homes and businesses in upscale localities have contracted private actors to provide security. Unfortunately, most Pakistanis cannot afford private security and remain without adequate safety.

This was painfully obvious during the attack on Data Darbar. As terrorists massacred innocents, security arrangements seemed particularly inadequate. Interestingly, at the rally held the next day to condemn these attacks, there seemed to be no shortage of protection. This was not provided by the state but by people in civilian clothes carrying guns of all shapes and sizes. As clerics, vowed to seek revenge and urged others to do the same, it was frighteningly disconcerting to see the gunmen that surrounded them and to think of what havoc they were capable of wreaking with that fire power.

Interestingly, the police personnel present did not seem to think this was a problem. They stood by watching silently as weapons were openly brandished and fired into the air. Over the years, given the lack of security, we have become used to seeing citizens brandishing heavy firearms. But surely, in this new atmosphere of increasing terror, volatile sentiments and brutal killings, there should be an embargo on weapon ownership and their display in public.

I remember a rally led by Maulana Masood Azhar after his release from an Indian prison as a result of the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane. This confirmed terrorist paraded around in an open jeep with an extremely heavily armed escort, to a public rally where he incited further violence and hatred. The display of arms was symbolic of his power and was used as a tool to awe and intimidate spectators.

But why blame just the bearded gent, when all and sundry in power in Pakistan are responsible for the same? Having a heavily armed entourage is symbolic of power and prestige for our politicians as well. There seems to be an arms race brewing in the circles of power which leads people to hire bigger and better guns than those around them. The only casualty is the common citizen who suffers at the hands of an increasingly armed society.

Easy access to weapons and their unchecked use in public is a major contributor in increasing levels of violence and killing. Revamping laws to suit present times is essential. There is an urgent need to de-weaponise Pakistani society. And we should begin by enacting laws that prevent the public use and display of firearms by everyone. And then we can go on to tackling the knottier issue of the sale of these arms.

In the past, de-weaponisation drives have targeted particular groups for political reasons. But for national security reasons, this drive must target all offenders equally. People should be asked to register firearms per existing laws and ownership of certain firearms should be banned. And our political leadership should lead the charge in this change by demilitarising their mustachioed entourages. Given the havoc that these politicians have wreaked on Pakistani society, I’m not sure how worthy or deserving they are of such security. The state needs to do a better job at providing security to citizens and in demonising guns as weapons of terror and ruthless killing rather than weapons of power and prestige.

So if our exalted political leadership could stop toting guns and free up some state security resources from policing and protecting their social activities, maybe we could reduce the loss of life to the common citizen.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2010.

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