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The Half Truth Told By Farha Naz Isphahani

photo-4I had an opportunity to attend the APPNA spring meeting this past weekend. APPNA held a social forum to talk about the genocide of Shia doctors in Pakistan, and to see if anything can be done by the Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, APPNA,  to stop that genocide.

Two former members of Pakistan’s National and Punjab assembly Dr. Amna Buttar and Farah Naz Isphahani were present as speakers of the conference. Both of these women don’t need an introduction and have been credited to a multitude of good work, as they are social workers and human rights activists.

What drove me to write this piece was the few statements made by Ms. Farah Naz Isphahani. A woman with young looks, a cute smile, vibrant personality and a famous last name spoke the truth that day,  but she also spoke a half truth.  While I admire her for the truth, I want to mention the parts where she wasn’t so accurate.

Someone from the audience asked her which government declared Ahmadi’s “non-muslims”.  That individual was speaking of Pakistan People Party’s mullah appeasement and the unfortunate role it has played in Pakistani politics.  Farha Naz accepted that fact by just making a simple and stratight forward statement, “Unfortunately, Shaheed Zulifqar Ali Bhutto was trying to appease mullahs when he declared Ahmadi’s non muslims, but he ended up pleasing no one”.

And that was the truth which I admire her greatly for.  Farah Naz Isphahani is no stranger to the truth, she speaks with infallibility most of the time. She openly condemns religious extremism in Pakistan and seems to have genuine love for the country.

My problem is with her explanation of the disqualification and termination of her National Assembly’s membership. She said, “Chief Justice of Pakistan doesn’t think that I am patriotic enough because I am a dual citizen”.

Here is the simple truth that could have been stated just like the truth that she told about Bhutto’s mullah appeasement policy:

Pakistani constitution’s Artcile 63C is about the disqualification of candidates. It tells you what will disqualify you from becoming a member of Parliament. And it says:

                (c) he/she ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign State.

And that statement alone disqualifies all dual citizens. When you take an oath as a member of Parliament, you say, “I do qualify to be a member and have nothing that would disqualify me from being the member of Parliament”.

In fact, Farah Naz Isphani is not the only one who has not stated this fact clearly. Dr. Ashraf Chohan, a former member of Punjab Assembly and a British citizen, and several journalists who are friends with Isphani and company have written statements also, such as, “what? Dual citizenship doesn’t mean you are not patriotic enough. You stupid stupid Cheif Justice!”

The problem is that when Pakistan’s constitution was written in 1973, someone decided that if you seek a citizenship of another country, you are no longer Pakistani enough to be a member of Parliament.

And that isn’t my probelm. My problem now is wondering if all these dual citizenship holders read those disqualification guidelines and then lied under oath about it?

Clearly CJ thinks so, since he has placed criminal charges on all these formal members of Parliament and National Assembly and these people will go to jail for up to seven years for lying to the government and the authorities if they ever returned to Pakistan.

There is a great possibility that these dual citizens did not read the constitution and the requirements properly. And honestly, I do not believe that many people who are in Parliament have read the constitution. Perhaps reading and passing an exam on the constitution should also be a requirement to be in Parliament.

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Shazia Nawaz

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  • Not everything that is written in Pakistan’s constitution is defensible, e.g., the blasphemy law, the anti-Ahmadi legislation, the articles about the moral character of candidates in elections etc. Moreover, it is not only the controversial laws, it is also their lopsided and selective application which is problematic. A case in point is how the courts led by Islamo fascist judges Iftikhar Chaudhry, Shaukat Siddiqi etc are hounding Musharraf for violating the constitution while forgetting their own role in doing the same in 1999.

    Reverting to the topic, it is unfair to provide an acontextual criticism of Mrs Ispahani in the current episode. Let’s look at the context:

    Dr. Taqi writes:

    “he Chief Justice and the Honourable Justice Jawwad Khawaja made some stern observations — bordering on allegations — while hearing a petition filed by Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi seeking disqualification of three Pakistan People’s Party legislators holding dual nationality. The prime target of these judicial jabs was Ms Farahnaz Ispahani, MNA, who according to media reports is a citizen of Pakistan by birth and also a naturalised citizen of the United States.

    There are some serious issues with the august bench’s observations. One must recall that not too long ago the Supreme Court had appointed a judicial commission to probe allegations against Ms Ispahani’s husband, the former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani in the so-called Memogate. When Mr Haqqani did not appear before the said commission on account of health and security reasons, the presiding judge, Honourable Justice Faez Issa had, in the April 6, 2012 hearing, threatened to ‘summon’ Mr Haqqani’s wife and children to court if he failed to appear before the commission in person. While no one doubts the honest intentions of the current bench hearing the dual nationality case, it still is rather disconcerting to see Mr Haqqani’s wife dragged to the court in just over a month after Justice Issa’s threat. To avoid any concerns about victimising Mr Haqqani’s family, it would have been prudent for the bench to include in the proceedings the 35 odd other parliamentarians, including ones from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, who allegedly hold dual citizenship. After all, justice must also be seen to be done, especially by a court given to long-winded speeches on morality.”

    As far as the constitutional provision is concerned, that too is indefensible:

    “The current proceedings are focused on Article 63(1) (c) of the Constitution. Applied for the first time ever in the March 2012 Senate election, it says, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of Parliament, if he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state.” It would be interesting to see how the court interprets the ambiguity around the transitive verb ‘acquires’ in this case. And after that bridge is crossed, the key question would be of the supremacy of parliament and the role of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairman Senate as custodians of their respective houses as Article 63 (2) states: “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 30 days and should he fail to do so within the aforesaid period, it shall be deemed to have been referred to the Election Commission.”

    It is tragic that when major democracies like the United States, Canada, Britain and developing countries like the Philippines and Mexico allow dual citizens to hold public office, the Pakistani Supreme Court has seized itself with yet another political question in which its initial comments appear quite reactionary and out of sync with the community of nations. It is however a welcome sign that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has not only elevated the level of discourse above partisan politics but by acknowledging the right of all dual citizen Pakistanis to run for public office has set the stage for revisiting Article 63(1) (c), parts of which should have been done away with in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.”


    Dual citizens are as valuable and respectable as any other citizen of Pakistan. Their loyalty must not be doubted, least by the judge who himself begged dual nationals for their support when deposed and incarcerated by a military dictator.