ISLAMABAD, May 25: MNA Farahnaz Ispahani’s reply to a court query on dual nationality has landed her into trouble.
Considering the reply as an admission that she is a US citizen, the Supreme Court suspended on Friday her parliamentary membership till the time the controversy was finally settled.
“Prime facie we are of the view that it will be in the interest of the country, the nation as well as to enforce the Constitution that her membership of the National Assembly be suspended,” pronounced Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who heads a three-judge bench hearing a case relating to parliamentarians with dual nationality.
From now on Ms Ispahani, wife of former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, will not be able to attend a session of the lower house or participate in discussions and meetings of standing committees where important decisions are taken.
The court had taken up a petition of Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi who sought a decision against parliamentarians and members of provincial assemblies possessing dual nationality. Businessman by profession, Mr Naqvi has a penchant for filing petitions before the apex court.
Although the petitioner had claimed in the petition that 35 lawmakers had dual nationality, he could name only four PPP parliamentarians who have acquired foreign citizenship.
Interior Minister Senator Rehman Malik and MNAs Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal and Chaudhry Iftikhar Nazir are believed to have citizenship of Britain while Farahnaz Ispahani is accused of being an American citizen.
In her reply, Ms Ispahani had conceded that she was a natural born citizen of Pakistan as well as of the United States by virtue of the permission granted by the Citizenship Act, 1951, and also by the Constitution. She said she had taken oath at the time she had been elected a member of the National Assembly to be faithful and loyal to Pakistan. Her dual citizenship had not and would not undermine her loyalty to Pakistan, she insisted.
Rehman Malik had taken the stand before the court on May 10 that he was a Pakistani and had renounced the British citizenship on March 25, 2008. But the court asked his counsel Azhar Chaudhry to present a certificate usually issued by the
British government after surrendering properties and businesses at the time of renouncing citizenship. The counsel sought time to furnish the relevant documents.
Chaudhry Iftikhar Nazir is also required to furnish evidence from the passport office to prove his claim that he had never obtained any UK passport or held British nationality.
Advocate Mian Abdul Rauf, representing Zahid Iqbal, said his client was not a British national but obtained a permanent residency and ran a business there.
“It is to be noted that a person who renounces nationality has to submit a renunciation form (RN) to the UK Border Agency Department No 1, P.O. Box No 306 Liverpool L2 QN,” the court said and asked all those claiming renunciation to furnish evidence including receipts of the prescribed fee for renunciation to establish that they had renounced British nationality.
In her reply, Ms Ispahani also questioned the jurisdiction of the apex court to undertake an investigation which, according to her, was not permitted by the Constitution since the procedure for disqualification of an MNA had already been laid down
in Article 63(2) of the Constitution. Since a subject specific procedure was provided in the Constitution, the jurisdiction of the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution could not be invoked, she said.
But the court order answered her pleading: “We fail to understand that in such an important matter where elected representatives are holding position in Senate and the National Assembly and at the same time they are enjoying benefit of dual nationality against the provision of Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution, if this court, which is bound to preserve and defend the Constitution, is not empowered to enforce the fundamental rights of the citizens in terms of Article 184(3) of the
Constitution, then which court will be competent to do so?
“After her election as member of the lower house she had taken oath under Article 65 of the Constitution to bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan, perform functions honestly, to the best of his/her ability, faithfully….
“At the same time, while acquiring the citizenship of USA she has also taken the oath, administered to the immigrants, who wish to become citizens of USA that he/she entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign state, that
he or she will support and defend the constitution and laws of the US against all enemies, foreign and domestic ….
“Prima facie admission made by her and contents of the US oath and before the Election Commission of Pakistan in filing the nomination papers to contest the election and then taking oath under the constitution, she had not disclosed that as far
as citizenship of Pakistan is concerned, she had already renounced the same.
“In democratic dispensation under the constitutional provision the lawmakers occupy their positions as chosen representatives of people of Pakistan and if the chosen representatives have already renounced their citizenship, prima facie under the constitutional dispensation, they had no right to represent them and decide the issues of all national importance being the members of different committees, including defence, where all open and secrets including nuclear
assets and issues for the betterment of the people of this country/nation were discussed.”
During the proceedings, Attorney General Irfan Qadir requested the court to see all aspects with an open mind so that overseas Pakistanis who sent huge remittances every year should not suffer.
The court, however, reminded him that it was also seized with a matter regarding granting right of vote to overseas Pakistanis.