SC seeks affidavits from senators on dual nationality

* CJP says he did not wish to withhold notifications of 'eligible senators' and impede their ability to vote in elections for Senate top slots

LAHORE: A full bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday directed three newly elected senators – Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s sister Sadia Abbasi, Nuzhat Sadiq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Chaudhry Sarwar of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) – to submit affidavits that they had permanently and irrevocably renounced and surrendered their foreign nationality.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard a suo motu case against dual nationality of judges, officials of the court, the government and legislators here at the Lahore registry.

Sadia Abbasi, Nuzhat Sadiq and Chaudhry Sarwar appeared before the bench but failed to satisfy it on a query whether the renunciation of their foreign citizenships was permanent in nature or reversible.

The bench appointed two senior lawyers – Bilal Minto and Khalid Javed Khan – as amicus curiae to assist it on the question whether the renunciation of the foreign nationality claimed by the senators was permanent under the law of the US and UK.

The fourth newly elected senator – Haroon Akhtar Khan of the PML-N – did not appear before the bench and his counsel Barrister Syed Ali Zafar sought an adjournment.

The bench has already restrained the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from issuing notification of the four newly elected senators.

The bench also issued notice to a newly elected independent senator from Balochistan – Kuda Babar – while restraining the ECP from issuing notification of his success.

Sadia Abbasi, Nuzhat Sadiq and Chaudhry Sarwar submitted record in support of their claim that they had renounced their foreign citizenship prior to the Senate polls.

Nuzhat Sadiq submitted that she renounced her US citizenship in 2012 and Ch Sarwar submitted that he had relinquished his UK nationality on July 12, 2013, before assuming charge as governor of Punjab.

The bench was, however, surprised to learn that Sadia Abbasi surrendered her US nationality days before getting nomination papers for the Senate election.

They are the representatives of Pakistan who first avail dual nationality for foreign benefits and surrender the same to take benefit from their own country,” the bench observed.

The bench expressed its concerns when PTI’s Andleeb Abbas, who had challenged the candidatures of both women senators before the ECP, submitted that Ms Abbasi had also held office of MNA on a reserved seat till 2008. The bench observed that the court would see the matter of Ms Abbasi’s qualification from her previous stint as the parliamentarian.

The bench has fixed the matter for hearing on March 10 at the Lahore registry so as to decide the issue before election for the chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate scheduled for March 12.

The court observed that eligible legislators will not be prevented from voting in the upcoming election for the Senate top slots. The chief justice said he had not known that the election for the Senate chairman was to be held on March 12 when he ordered the withholding of notifications. He said he did not wish to withhold the notifications of ‘eligible voters’ and impede their ability to vote.

Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2018.