Dual Nationality and Election Eligibility


pink and white cherry blossom tree
pink and white cherry blossom tree

In a significant ruling, the Lahore High Court’s Appellate Tribunal dismissed Election Appeal No. 150 of 2024, filed by Wajid Ur Rehman, challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to reject his nomination papers for the Punjab Provincial Assembly elections. This decision is rooted in Rehman’s dual nationality, specifically his possession of a United Kingdom passport, which disqualified him under Pakistani law.

Key Areas:

Appellant’s Argument: The appellant argued that he had initiated the process to surrender his UK nationality, which should qualify him to contest the elections. His counsel contended that the Returning Officer misinterpreted Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution, which deals with disqualification based on foreign citizenship. They suggested that the provision should be read conjunctively, meaning a candidate should only be disqualified if they cease to be a Pakistani citizen and acquire foreign nationality.

Legal Precedents: The court referenced several important cases, including the Supreme Court’s rulings in Suo Motu case No.8 of 2018 (PLD 2019 SC 201) and Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi v. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2012 SC 1089). These cases affirmed that the word 'or' in Article 63(1)(c) is disjunctive, meaning holding foreign nationality alone disqualifies a candidate, irrespective of their Pakistani citizenship status.

Court's Analysis: The court found that appellant’s renunciation process was not complete and, therefore, he remained a foreign national at the time of filing his nomination papers. This situation clearly fell within the disqualification criteria of Article 63(1)(c). The court emphasized the Returning Officer’s duty to ensure ineligible candidates are screened out during the initial scrutiny, citing Nawabzada Iftikhar Ahmad Khan v. Chief Election Commissioner (PLD 2010 SC 817) to highlight the importance of fair election conduct.

Conclusion: The Lahore High Court’s Appellate Tribunal, led by Judge Ch. Abdul Aziz, dismissed the appeal, upholding the Returning Officer’s decision. The court underscored the necessity of adhering to constitutional and legal provisions regarding election eligibility to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.

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