The dual nationality debate

I ask myself a very simple and morally relevant question: who is a more patriotic Pakistani? A Pakistani-born national who holds dual nationality, resides overseas and has, in the last two decades, remitted an enormous amount of hard-earned money back to his or her native land, makes expensive air trips every year to visit his or her birthplace and emotionally remains loyal to his or her cultural affiliations and values by promoting the Pakistani community in his or her adopted country? Or a Pakistani, who lives in Pakistan, embezzles remitted money, violates national culture, indulges in corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and is involved in multiple acts of moral and illegal conduct?

The ultimate irony, the most warped paradox of the contemporary sham of “muk-muka” democracy in Pakistan, is that the political discourse of the political leadership is focused on the destruction of democratic norms, values and conventions that they claim to be saving. Such deceit, massive exploitation and violation of public mandate is unprecedented in the history of this nation. Non-issues, such as the dual nationality debate, are at the forefront, while the matters that are certainly malignant to the core principles and practices of parliamentary democracy are held in the background and completely ignored.

Consider, for example, the following: the country’s President, reportedly, accepts a gift of billions of rupees in the shape of an expensive residential estate from a businessman in a metropolis and operates his party’s political campaign from there. It is a clear legal, moral and ethical violation of the “conflict of interest” code of conduct in parliamentary democracy. Yet, the main opposition party’s leadership does not table a vote of no confidence against the President in the National Assembly; it does not even raise an objection. The legislators, supposedly public representatives, also do not demand his resignation on account of such a blatant breach of an important and fundamental norm of democratic governance. The justification offered by the opposition leaders and national legislators for this kind of unconstitutional and morally bankrupt political discourse is that they do not wish to derail the nascent democracy. What baloney! What a shame!

Balochistan is burning and dissident political activists are disappearing in scores on a daily basis. The Hazara community is being mercilessly killed and yet, the federal and provincial governments are not willing to accept the responsibility of such grave mismanagement of national affairs. There are no resignations, no reprimands, no demands by the opposition in the central legislature for the removal of the current political administration. Our democracy-loving leadership claims that their political behaviour is in the interest of saving democracy in the country.

The fact of the matter is that in a true democracy, even the death of a single citizen caused by the political regime’s inefficiency and lack of security and safety for people’s lives and property is enough reason for an elected government to resign collectively - or at least, for the responsible cabinet minister to exit voluntarily.

Here, in this country of the pious and honourable, common citizens experience “holocausts” on a daily basis. American drones reign lethal fire from the sky at dawn and in the middle of the night, killing innocent men and women - their children constantly living in fear; suicide bombers blowing themselves up amidst crowded market places, spilling human body parts and blood everywhere. Ask the Hazara community what this democracy has given to their community. Ask the victims of drone attacks what it means to lose an entire family. And yet, the entire political leadership is singularly focused on saving the nascent democracy.

Is it not ironic that the traditional political leadership has just woken up, after five-long years, to initiate peace talks with the insurgent forces. How much more apathy of this “muk-muka” democracy, hell-bent on saving this sham, manipulative, wilfully and knowingly organised violence against the Pakistani society, can be tolerated? What kind of democracy is this and what democracy do they claim to be saving?

Even more sad and ironic is the predicament that seemingly all of the electronic media, save a couple of TV anchors, and all of the traditional leadership have decided to turn a non-issue into a major national debate and paradox - the questions about a Pakistani’s dual nationality; his or her loyalty to the nation, legal and constitutional rights and obligations, and inherent, non-revocable claims as a native citizen of this country.

The recent Supreme Court comments during a hearing on Dr Qadri’s petition on the composition of the Election Commission of Pakistan has added fuel to the fire. The fact of the matter is simple: a dual nationality holder Pakistani is entitled to all rights reserved for all native-born citizens, except where the constitution specifically constrains or demands a certain legal course of action.

Then the question is: why such an enraged political-media debate on this issue? The answer is simple: Dr Qadri’s political doctrine, his abrupt entry into political activism and his emerging standing as a political phenomenon (similar to Imran Khan’s tsunami) has challenged the present corrupt system, its traditional leadership, its “farsooda” political culture and has threatened the forces of political status quo and the ruling elite’s mantra of saving democracy in Pakistan.

Hence, the debate on the dual nationality issue is a pretext to launch an assault on the credibility of those who have finally decided to challenge and bring unqualified, inefficient and selfish politicians to task. That is the crux of the debate on dual nationality and, unfortunately, a large segment of the electronic media has chosen to expand this meaningless and absurd discussion to the centre stage of national politics.

Added to this predicament is an emerging dilemma in Pakistan: a national trend to organise the entire society on a purely legalistic framework. Indeed, it is good that everyone is treated equally before the law. However, in civilised societies, not every problem is resolved by or referred to a court of law. People take moral-ethical responsibility for their conduct. They make sound and fair judgments based on moral-ethical developments. They minimise the gaps in a conflict situation and they make mature, rational and commonsense decisions in the affairs of their lives and community living.

The issue of dual nationality is simple. It does not need a judicial review or an extensive media trial. It is a matter of applying simple rationality - an acceptance of its moral-ethical obligations by the state - and a matter of simple judgment by the common citizens and people at large. There is nothing more to it.

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