Respected elders, my mothers, sisters, dear workers of the movement, members of the Co-ordination Committee in London and Pakistan, haq parast Senators, MNAs, MPAs, ministers, members of all organizational wings and departments, members of the residents committees of Defence and Clifton, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, North Nazimabad, representatives of print and electronic media, cameraman, photographers, technicians, engineers and others working in the DSNG vans, producers, directors, and others present in the studios, religious scholars and wherever voice is being heard, I say Assalam-o-Alaikum to all.
Respected audience today’s meeting has been convened to hold a dialogue and the topic of the dialogue is “the issue of dual nationality." Intellectuals, senior and junior journalists, anchor persons, political analysts, engineers, lawyers and judges should also express their views on the issue.
In the beginning, I would say a few words in English for the English newspapers and those who do not understand Urdu. I would raise some points.
1. Does acquiring a dual nationality take away my right as a Pakistani by birth? I am born. If I am born in Pakistan, have studied there, and was raised there, will I cease to be loyal to the soil where I was born and where my elders are buried if I acquire a dual nationality?
2. Is Sonia Gandhi an Indian by birth? If not, why she is heading the largest political party of India and once stood for the office of the prime minister?
3. Is Barack Obama completely American? With his father not being American by birth, why Barack Obama is allowed to be the president of the most powerful nation on earth?
4. Now there is a point regarding multiple citizenship. Chief Justice of the United States John Rutledge ruled, “A man may at the same time enjoy the rights of citizenship under two governments.” Now there is another example of holding multiple citizenship among politicians and elected members of parliament. Even though the incidence of dual nationality is not very common among politicians or government employees, however, it does occur. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger retained his Austrian citizenship while serving as the governor of California. In 1990, the office of the attorney general of the United States issued an official opinion that the statutory provision that required the justice department not to employ a person who was not a citizen of the United States did not bar it from employing dual nationals.
These are some points for discussion. I am saying all this because I have received telephone calls and messages from overseas Pakistanis, who implored me to express their sentiments to the people of Pakistan. They have asked me to convey their reservations and concerns to the people at the helm of affairs in Pakistan and their fellow countrymen.
There was a time when Pakistanis living in foreign countries and having dual nationalities were allowed to cast their votes in embassies at the time of general elections in the country. This was done on several occasions.
I am expressing the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of Overseas Pakistanis, who always pray for Pakistan in difficult times and making efforts for their country. These Pakistanis celebrate 23rd March and 14th August wherever they be throughout the world, including Europe and the United States.
Pakistanis living abroad had to go out because of force of circumstances. They got education and started businesses in foreign countries. These Pakistanis send huge money to Pakistan in terms of foreign remittances that is the lifeblood of the economy of the country.
Is it not sheer injustice to deprive these Pakistanis from their right of voting and not allowing them to contest elections? What is the rationale behind the federal ministry for overseas Pakistanis if the overseas Pakistanis had nothing to do with Pakistan? Should not the people at the helm of affairs in Pakistan, policy-making institutions, the Supreme Court reconsider their decision? Should they not review?
The respected audience should answer this question. What would they do if they were forced by the circumstances to leave their city or their country? What would you do if you cannot live in your homes fearing for your life and the lives of your children and other members of your family? (We will migrate to some other country).
Even the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) had to leave Makkah when the persecution of the infidels increased, and life in Makkah was made difficult for him and his companions. He not only left Makkah himself but asked his companions also to leave Makkah. Conquest of Makkah would not have been possible had he not migrated and reorganized. Hence leaving one’s city or country and settling somewhere else because of circumstances was the way of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
What is the fault of the people was who had to leave their homeland because of the tyranny of martial laws in order to save their lives. Although there acquired dual nationality yet their hearts continued to beat for their country. Will their loyalty to the country could be called into question just because they had acquired nationality of some other country as well? Is it not equal to ridiculing their patriotism?
Not everyone in the country has the same fortune as Nawaz Sharif and his family to stay in a palatial abode in Saudi Arabia as a state guest by contracting a deal with the government. If Saudi Arabia had not given asylum to Nawaz Sharif, and he had to go to a western country, would he not have applied for asylum after the expiry of the visa?
Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif stayed out of the country for many years. Some would say that although they remained out of the country, yet they did not acquire dual nationality. However, not everyone in Pakistan has the fortune to become guests of the royal family of Saudi Arabia.
Some of the MQM people were working in Saudi Arabia. Their only crime was that they were MQM workers. The Saudi government apprehended them and handed them over to Pakistani authorities. They were subjected to brutal and inhuman torture in the Adiala Jail. Their nails were pulled out. It is a long story of barbaric oppression.
The Supreme Court and other institutions should also take notice of the fact that if someone is left with no other option but to settle in some other country because of state persecution, oppression, and political victimization. If they have committed a crime by acquiring citizenships of some other country, then those who force people to leave their country should also be punished.
Is Mrs Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party in India, Indian by birth? If not, how is she the head of one of the largest political party of India? She even stood for the office of the prime minister of India once. Father of the US president Mr Barack Obama was not American by birth, yet Mr Obama became the president of the most powerful country of the world.
Is it not true that the overseas Pakistanis are pleaded to send remittances whenever the economy of the country is in deep troubles? Does their money not support the national exchequer? Is it justified to bar these Pakistanis to take part in elections when their money was so much needed to support the economy of the country? Should not the overseas Pakistanis have the right to take part in elections being the sons of the soil?
The decision of allowing Pakistanis having dual nationality to stand in elections should be left to the people of Pakistan. If the people are willing to elect them by their votes, their decision should be respected.
I say to government of Pakistan, the establishment, and the judges of the Supreme Court to hold a referendum on the issue of dual nationality and Pakistanis living in foreign countries should be asked if they loved Pakistan or not despite having a dual nationality. They should also be asked if they wanted to take part in their native country or not.
We believe that this issue should not be looked from the standpoint of differences between the judiciary and the executive. The issue should be seen on a broader canvas and the overseas Pakistanis, who have been serving their country should not be offended at any cost. Such decisions are conveying to the overseas Pakistanis the wrong message that they cannot take part in elections and exercise their right to vote because their patriotism and loyalty the country is dubious.
Did the Supreme Court, the government and the election commission of Pakistan ever inform the Pakistanis living in foreign countries that they will not be will not be able to vote or stand in the elections? Did the overseas Pakistanis commit any sin by acquiring dual nationalities by force of circumstances? Their hearts are filled with love for their countries, and such decisions may diminish their love and make them unconcerned in the affairs of the country. Do decisions like these not bode ill for the country in the future?
The overseas Pakistanis are very greatly disturbed on the situation, and they are openly saying as to why they should feel pain for Pakistan when their patriotism was held in doubt. Why should we send remittances through government channels? The overseas Pakistanis send approximately $ 12bn to Pakistan, which is the backbone of the economy of the country. What would happen if the overseas Pakistanis, most of whom are dual nationals, stop sending this money to Pakistan?
I want to ask the respect audience if the overseas Pakistanis did not send relief goods and cash worth billions of rupees whenever a natural disaster struck in Pakistan. Whether it was the devastating earthquake of 2005 or the heavy floods of 2011 and 2012 or whenever there was an economic crisis in the country, the overseas Pakistanis have always come to the help of their countrymen.
I do not want to delve into legal and constitutional issues. Has the constitution not been amended on several occasions? Today Nawaz Sharif and his party support the decision on dual nationality. They say that the dual nationality holders should not be given the right of voting or to contest in elections. They have also stayed out of the country for eight years. They should also not have the right to take part in politics or aspire for the offices of chief minister or prime minister.
The Commonwealth countries had signed a treaty in 1951 that the citizens of the Commonwealth countries could keep dual nationalities. Take the example of the United Kingdom. Do you not know that people having Pakistani citizenship are members of the British parliament? Are not people of Pakistani origin elected as members of the local councils in Canada, UK, USA and other western countries? It would be a great loss for Pakistan if these countries disallowed people of Pakistani origin to become members of the councils. These Pakistanis who act as permanent ambassadors of Pakistan and use their political and economic position for the betterment of their country would not be in a position to do so.
If there is a constitutional hindrance in enabling over 70 to 80 lacks overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote and stand in general elections, the constitution should be amended. I humbly appeal to the Chief Justice and other honourable judges of the court to review their decision regarding the issue of dual nationality. I am not saying anything for my personal interest or for the interest of a handful of people. I am saying this in the interest of the country.
In the end, I want to bring to your notice that an advertisement has been published in the Daily Jang on 2nd October. I want to know and understand its significance. I also pray Allah to shower His mercy on Pakistan.
The heading of the advertisement is “Inform what you see." It says that the law-enforcing agencies have busted a gang involved in bank robberies. It has appeared during the investigation the miscreants are planning to carry out bank robberies and kidnappings for ransom in order to achieve their nefarious designs. They intend to use the money obtained from these heinous crimes in carrying out terrorism activities in different cities of the country. These miscreants have set their targets with the connivance of certain local accomplices and are busy in the last stages of their preparations.
The law-enforcing and security agencies have been alerted in the larger interest of the public to remain vigilant. They have been asked to ensure proper security and act on the principle of “inform what you see." The advertisement is from institutions responsible for public security. A mobile telephone number 0324-5167320 has also been given. I have read this to you. Discuss its contents and inform me about your opinions.
Once again, I would say that those living abroad are your brothers. Think about them lest you should also be forced to apply for asylum in some country. May Allah save everyone from facing hard times! Life of exile is full of pain and misery. May Allah keep everyone in His protection!