The Supreme Court of Pakistan, while hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the alleged dual nationality of five senators-elect, on Saturday issued an interim order stating that the senators-elect be sworn in and allowed to vote in the Senate chairmanship polls to be held on March 12.
However, the bench also ordered the constitution of a seven-member larger bench to examine the matter in detail and deliver a final verdict. Meanwhile, it ordered the ECP to notify the five senators-elect till the case is decided.
The Election Commission of Pakistan issued ‘conditional’ notifications later in the day notifying the five senators-elect’s victory, but said the notifications may change subject to the Supreme Court’s final decision on the matter.
During the hearings on Saturday, Justice Ijazul Ahsan had asked what would happen to the Senate chairman’s election if the five senators-elect, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s sister Sadia Abbasi, Nuzhat Sadiq and Haroon Akhtar Khan of the PML-N, Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, and Khuda Babar, an independent candidate from Balochistan, are disqualified in the future.
“This is a complicated matter and a larger seven-member bench will have to look into the matter,” Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar replied, while ordering that a new bench be formed to deal with the case.
Sarwar told the court that he had renounced his British citizenship in 2013, but the court nonetheless asked him what stake he had in Pakistan if his family remained British citizens and all his wealth was parked abroad too. The chief justice asked Sarwar to “satisfy” the court on these questions. The Supreme Court directed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader and senator-elect Chaudhry Sarwar to submit a written affidavit in the court that he has relinquished his British citizenship.
The directives from the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar came after Sarwar’s counsel said that his client renounced his nationality in 2013 but it could be revived under the British law.
When the chief justice asked the senator-elect that it appeared he had given up his British national to become a governor and enjoying perks and privileges and later return to Britain after restoring his nationality. The Chief Justice queried whether he gave up his British nationality for good, or temporarily, to which Sarwar’s counsel said that under British law, nationality can be restored.
Later, the bench asked Ch Sarwar to give an undertaking mentioning that he will never restore his British nationality; otherwise, it would lead to his disqualification.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial added that the court would like to see how “loyal” those people who hold dual nationalities are, but hastened to add that the court has immense respect for overseas Pakistanis. “We are speaking from the legal perspective,” he explained.
Last week, the chief justice, while hearing a suo motu case concerning civil servants holding dual nationality, had ordered the ECP to withhold the notifications he was told by the attorney general that they allegedly possessed dual nationality.
The chief justice had directed the five senators-elect to submit affidavits that they had ‘permanently’ and ‘irrevocably’ renounced and surrendered their foreign nationality.
However, in the previous hearing of the case, the chief justice had said he had not known that the elections for the Senate chairman were to be held on March 12 when he ordered the withholding of the notifications of their victory in the March 3 polls.
In compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders, the Election Commission of Pakistan on Saturday conditionally notified the five senators whose notification were withheld a day before. The Chief Justice Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had earlier asked the Election Commission Pakistan to issue a provisional notification for the five newly-elected senators allegedly holding dual nationality.
The CJP said he will hear the case of dual nationality of the five newly elected senators, whose notifications were withheld by the ECP. Nuzhat Sadiq, Haroon Akhter, Chaudhry Sarwar, Saeeda Abbasi from Punjab, and independent candidate Khuda Babar from Balochistan were not notified as senators.