Monday, July 9, 2012

Top political guns agree to save their billions, escape routes

Some key cabinet members of the ruling coalition as well as Pakistani politicians having offshore bank accounts, properties and businesses would be the major beneficiaries of the constitutional amendment allowing dual nationality holders to become members of parliament.

The proposed amendment, as approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, if passed, would relieve the Pakistani politicians, including President Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, ANP leader Asfandyar Khan Wali, PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, MQM chief Altaf Hussain and a large number of parliamentarians, ministers and advisers, etc, from public pressure to bring back their foreign wealth worth billions of dollars to Pakistan.

In a recent statement coming out of Switzerland, it was stated that Pakistanis had close to US$97 billion deposited in Swiss accounts.

In addition, this amendment would save the skin of some influential cabinet members like Adviser to Prime Minister on Interior Abdur Rehman Malik. Unconfirmed reports even suggest that Minister for Petroleum Dr Asim Hussain and some others also have dual nationality.

Allowing the overseas Pakistanis having foreign nationality to contest elections would also mean allowing the politicians and parliamentarians to keep their accounts, properties and businesses abroad. Moreover, such an amendment would pave the way for dual nationals, settled abroad, to become president, prime minister or to get hold of any key cabinet slot including defence, foreign and finance ministries.

Pakistan did have the likes Moeen Qureshi and others as prime ministers besides a number of parliamentarians and ministers having dual nationality but such serious constitutional violations were the consequence of serious lapses on part of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Till recently the ECP had been overlooking the constitutional bar on dual nationals to become member of the Senate, National Assembly and provincial assemblies owing to which a number of dual nationals have been entering parliament and were able to hold key public offices.

Of late the ECP has decided that every candidate willing to participate in the elections for Parliament would have to submit under oath that he/she had no foreign or dual nationality.

The doing away of this constitutional restriction could see what happened in the case of Moeen Qureshi and others who ruled and ruined Pakistan and ran away with their suitcases as soon as their rule ended without any fear of being held accountable.

It is generally demanded that Pakistan should be ruled by those who live and die with the people of Pakistan and who do not have any option other than Pakistan. For the same reasons, the media in Pakistan and the civil society generally see with abhorrence the foreign businesses, bank accounts and luxury properties of the country’s leaders and MPs.

For the same reasons the media and the civil society had welcomed Raza Hayat Hiraj’s recent constitutional amendment bill, which provided for disqualification of a member of parliament if he possesses any bank account, assets, wealth or business outside Pakistan or has dual nationality. The bill also sought dismissal from the government service of those members of the judiciary, defence forces and civil services on similar grounds.

It is argued that dual nationals, who are interested in taking part in the elections and want to contribute towards the progress and prosperity of Pakistan by taking part in active politics, should sacrifice their foreign nationality to ensure that the national wealth is not plundered and shifted to offshore accounts as has been repeatedly happening in the past.