Senators question judiciary’s immunity over dual nationality


Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) senators, joined by an opposition lawmaker, debated the immunity enjoyed by superior judiciary on the dual nationality issue, demanding that dual nationals should be barred from holding positions in superior courts and asked the government to share details of dual nationals serving in the superior judiciary, if any.
The criticism was fierce because the legislators’ stance was that if the law did not allow dual nationals in parliament, civil services and the armed forces, it should extend and include superior judiciary in the same bracket.
Presidential spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar triggered the debate on a point of order, when he raised the issue. Referring to an answer submitted last month by Law Minister Farooq H Naek in the House, that said there was no bar on superior court judges to hold dual nationality, Babar demanded suitable legislation to bar dual nationals from becoming judges and also called for names of dual nationals in judiciary to be made public.
“Our judges are most honourable and I do not believe that any one of them has taken an oath of allegiance to the constitution of any other country but it is necessary that the law minister be asked to make a categorical statement in this regard,” he said.
“It is clear that a dual national cannot be a member of parliament, cannot join the armed forces and cannot join the civil service academy until he or she renounces the foreign nationality,” he said and asked for the rationale behind allowing dual nationals to become judges of superior courts. He questioned why an exception had been made in the judiciary’s case.
Babar went on to say he did not suspect some judges were dual nationals saying that they are all honourable men and are above suspicion. “They do no wrong and that is perhaps why no judge has been impeached during the past quarter of a century,” he said. Arguing that judges exercised extraordinary powers over all organs of the state, he said it was unimaginable that there were judges who had sworn allegiance to constitutions of other states and still exercised such vast powers over the elected parliament and other state organs in Pakistan. “No I do not believe it. It cannot be. It is unimaginable,” he stated.
Senator Raza Rabbani said that Article 177 (2) dealt with the appointment of judges of the superior judiciary and was unclear on the dual nationality issue for which an explanation was needed. He said a person who received a salary from the federal consolidated funds would under existing law seize to be citizen of Pakistan if he acquired the nationality of any other country.
Senator Babar Awan said the law did not bar a dual national from becoming a judge of the superior judiciary. Referring to certain Articles of the constitution, Awan said anyone having a Pakistani nationality could become a judge.
Senator Saeed Ghani said the judges should not serve the loyalties of any other country by holding a dual nationality and proper legislation was necessary on the matter.
Hafiz Hamdullah of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) was the opposition member of the parliament who joined chorus and said that a judge holding dual nationality would not be acceptable to him. He said the judges, while hearing the dual nationality case had remarked that they did not need half Pakistanis. He said that his party would oppose the dual nationality of judges with full force.
Before the prorogation of the House proceedings, Senate Chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari ruled that Article 25 pertained to discrimination of citizens and the lawmakers. He said anyone could move an amendment on the dual nationality of judges. He also urged the judiciary to dispose of the matter of 18th Amendment which had been pending with it for months because it had been unanimously passed by the Parliament.
CNG PRICING: Earlier, Advisor to PM on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain, while replying to an attention notice regarding failure of the government to devise a formula for CNG prices resulting in non-provision of the fuel to the transports sector, said the government did not want to give all the gas to the CNG sector.
“The government had earlier devised a formula and now the matter is before the Supreme Court,” he said. The chair expressed surprise over why the apex court was deciding the price when it was the job of the government.
TAX AMNESTY BILL: Meanwhile, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh tabled the tax amnesty bill-Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2012, before the House for recommendations. The minister, replying to the queries of Senate Opposition Leader Ishaq Dar and Raza Rabbani, accepted that the bill should have been transmitted to the Senate the same day it was tabled in the National Assembly (NA). The house questioned the four-day delay in presenting the bill and Rabbani and Dar termed the act “a grave violation of the constitution”. However, their conduct and Dar’s referral of the issue to the House chair suggested some behind-the-scene settlement had already been reached. “However, since a mistake has been committed, it is up to the chair to judge the matter,” Dar had said. He said the Senate Standing Committee on Finance would deliberate upon the reservations of senators regarding the bill and the NA would respect all its recommendations.