ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday dismissed the dual nationality reference against 35 Members of Provincial Assembly (Punjab) after the complainant, a retired diplomat, failed to support any credible documentary evidence in support of his claim.
The ECP served notices to 23 MPAs on Tuesday and to 12 remaining provincial legislators on Wednesday asking them to appear before the Commission on Thursday. Of the total 35, two MPAs have resigned but were represented by their counsels. The remaining 33 lawmakers had appeared in person before the CEC to record their statements on Thursday.
During the proceedings, several lawmakers showed copies of relevant nationality documents including supporting letters from the Ministry of Interior to contend that they were not the nationals of any other country except Pakistan. Upon this, the CEC asked Asif Ezdi to produce any related evidence in support of his accusation that the legislators in question were the dual-nationals and were thus violating Article 63 (1) (C) of the constitution, which states, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if: he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state.”
In response, Ezdi failed to come up with any documentary evidence except producing a handful of press clippings, he had based his reference on. “Since these lawmakers did not issue any formal denial to these stories printed in newspapers, it means that they are dual-nationals,” Ezdi stated. As his response drew further criticism, some legislators interrupted the former diplomat to state that they had already denied the said news stories.
The CEC Fakhruddin G Ebrahim then asked Asif Ezdi to “behave more responsibly in future” and “not to go against anybody while following wild ideas.” He then dismissed the reference to close the matter from further pursuance.
The MPAs vowed that they would not ‘spare’ Ezdi and “drag him in court” for what they said was an attempt to malign them. When approached, a visibly dejected Ezdi refused to comment on the issue and left the ECP soon after becoming a recipient of tough remarks from the CEC and the MPAs.
On October 10, 2012, Asif Ezdi had had moved a reference to Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Iqbal for the disqualification of 43 MPAs he accused of being dual-nationals. In the light of Article 63 (2), the speaker PA was to forward the matter to the ECP within 30 days for taking necessary action.
The speaker did not forward the reference to the electoral body within the prescribed time period, following which, the reference landed in the Election Commission. Of the total 43, eight MPAs either submitted supporting evidence to prove that they did not have dual nationality or resigned. Till date, a total of 28 lawmakers from all the four Provincial Assemblies, National Assembly and Senate have resigned after facing charges of dual-nationality. The ECP, last month, submitted their names in the Supreme Court in connection with a related case. The final judgment is awaited.
The Article 63 (2) reads, “ If any question arises whether a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) has become disqualified from being a member, the speaker or, as the case may be, the chairman shall, unless he decides that no such question has arisen, refer the question to the Election Commission within thirty days and should he fail to do so within the aforesaid period it shall be deemed to have been referred to the Election Commission.”