After Gen Zia carried out his coup, he made sure that democratic politicians could not threaten his grip on power. He did this by having Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto put to death, throwing Benazir Bhutto in prison, and carrying out an orchestrated campaign to harrass, torture, and kill democratic activists and leaders across the country. Many fled, not out of fear, but out of the dedication to regroup and return to liberate Pakistan from the clutches of a brutal dictator. Zia is long gone, but unfortunately, his programme of hounding democratic politicians continues – only this time, through other means.
A couple of months ago, I noted that people take dual citizenship for a number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with a diminished love or loyalty to Pakistan. One of those reasons was fear of political targeting:
It is also important to view the issue of dual nationality in a historical perspective. For most of the past 35 years, Pakistan suffered under one military dictatorship or another. Gen. Zia especially treated his political opponents brutally and without mercy. Martial Law Regulation No 53 left an indelible stain on the nation and many families were forced to look for security abroad.
Even during brief periods of democratic rule, politics was a high stakes game that ruined lives. We should remember that before the NRO was spun into a ‘get Zardari’ campaign, it was considered as a way to deal with the fact that the judiciary had become a weapon used against opponents. Just as the Supreme Court seems interested only in 4 cases of dual nationals, it seems to have forgotten that the NRO affected not only Zardari’s case but 8,000 others.
And the dual nationality issue affects every party and political ideology also. Just because the PPP is the only party being targeted by the Supreme Court, we should remember that even Imran Khan has said that dual nationals “should be treated equally”. Actually, PTI is taking much of its funding from foreign countries and some top PTI officers such as Fauzia Kasuri are dual nationals. Does this mean that she is not loyal to Pakistan? Imran Khan himself was married in England where he lived for part of every year for almost a decade. Maybe he too is a dual national. Does anyone honestly think that he is more loyal to the UK than Pakistan? Ridiculous.
Whatever your political beliefs, it is difficult to argue that any party has been the target of dictators wrath more than PPP. Benazir Bhutto was forced into exile by one military dictator, and her life was sacrificed under the watchful eye of another. But Benazir Bhutto’s political vision – moderate, tolerant, and pro-democracy – did not die. If anything, her martyrdom made it grow stronger, and PPP won the 2008 elections.
Gen Zia, on the other hand, hated democracy and is best known for introducing Islamisation to Pakistan including the draconian Hudood laws. But that is not his only legal legacy. It was also under Gen Zia that Articles 62 and 63 were added to the Constitution – including the language that the Court contends disqualifies dual nationals from joining parliament. It is in this context that we must view the current actions of the Supreme Court regarding dual nationality.
Is it mere coincidence that the first parliamentarian to be suspended is a PPP MNA? Or that she just happens to be married to the former Ambassador Husain Haqqani, another PPP loyalist who was forced to resign without any formal charges or trial? Is it further coincidence that the second parliamentarian to be suspended is the Interior Minister, another PPP loyalist?
In a hearing, the petitioner told the Supreme Court that Former Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary, Kanwar Dilshad, has said that there were 35 parliamentarians with dual nationalities. The Court, however, has taken drastic measures against only two parliamentarians – Farahnaz Ispahani and Rehman Malik. Two others are still under scrutiny by the Court – MNA Iftikhar Nazeer (PPP) and MNA Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal (PPP). It appears that the Supreme Court is only concerned with disqualifying PPP members, while ignoring allegations against the 31 others.
Democratic activists and leaders, especially those affiliated with the PPP, were systematically targeted and persecuted by Gen Zia’s forces. They were driven into exile where they regrouped until they could return to their homeland, bringing back the democracy promised by Qaid-e-Azam.
And return they did, smashing the idols of fascist dictatorship and giving back to the people their right to rule themselves. Now, we are being told that we cannot trust the loyalty of these same people because they chose to temporarily leave rather than submit to an illegitimate dictator. The General must be laughing in his grave.