Editorial - Here or there? - Sunday, March 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=34687&Cat=8&dt=3/6/2011

Do you really know if the person you vote for is 100 percent Pakistani – or do they have some other nationality or allegiance? This may no longer be an academic question if a private members’ bill proposing a constitutional amendment ever becomes adopted. The proposed bill suggests that they be disqualified from office if they hold dual nationality or assets abroad. Those assets may include bank accounts or property and extend to assets held by their family members or their proxies. It further proposes disqualification on the same grounds for members of the judiciary, the armed forces and the civil service. Should this bill ever lead to a constitutional amendment – and the chances of that are admittedly slim – many of our leading politicians from a swathe of parties would find themselves out of office.

An online search using the keywords ‘Pakistani politicians’ assets abroad’ throws up 391,000 items some of which are unverifiable lists of alleged holdings. Unverifiable they may be, and quite possibly denied if presented to, for instance – President Zardari, Mian Nawaz Sharif or Chaudhury Shujaat Hussein; but there is no smoke without fire and it is clear that the upper echelons of our political cadre have chosen to invest elsewhere than their mother country. Currently, there is nothing illegal in this. Many of the names that may be found are businessmen as well as politicians, and they will do business wherever they can make a profit or maximise an investment as do businessmen the world over. Whether ethically it is supportable that they choose to make their principle business outside of the country or within is debateable, and there are few that would welcome the debate. The matter of dual nationality is altogether trickier. The leader of one political party certainly has dual nationality and he lives abroad. The evidence for others holding dual nationality is harder to find. At best, a handful of senior politicians may be dual nationals; and there will be others who are ‘duals’ by virtue of their birth which gives them citizenship of their natal country whilst also conferring on them the national identity of their parents. Although the bill is unlikely to ever lead to constitutional amendment it does raise some fundamental questions about the commitment to this country of those who are elected to lead it, and where their loyalties may lie. The proposer of the bill former federal minister and chairman of the Standing Committee on Culture Muhammad Raza Hayat Hiraj; says that “the bill is for the people who have faith in Pakistan and who believe in Pakistan.” His altruism and patriotism may be admirable, but the silence of many of his political compadres says that they would much rather he did not interfere with their gilded foreign boltholes.

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