IRSHAD SALIM (Islamabad, Dec 16, 2018) — Following steps taken this week leave footprints in our society which if followed up on state-and -government level could really do “the walk the talk” thing. One relates to the homeless and the shelterless, and the other involves dual national Pakistanis working in government positions. Ironically, both I consider as marginalized sections of the society for different reasons though. The former needs socio-economic protection leading to empowerment, and the latter’s employments in government positions require legality within the ambit of the constitution. Both are suffering identity crisis as well, and need their dignity back.
A step taken for the homeless by the newly formed government involves humanizing poverty distress–to build a more caring society. Great idea. “What we need (though) is to institutionalize this across the country and let philanthropists contribute to sustain it; Spirit of Khilafat and modern EU style Welfare (system) together,” wrote Dr. Moeed Pirzada, and I and many would fully agree if the matter is not politicized. The issue carries human value strings in it common in all statecrafts being practiced worldwide and in all religion worldwide.
That Imran Khan’s government wants to humanize the Pakistani state needs a strong economy to implement though. His humane vision to protect the homeless and the shelterless is a great idea—and not costly if home work is done well to create the safety net for them. Learning from existing models being practiced globally will reveal that the cost of creating such a net dwarfs in front of a) price you ultimately pay by not doing so, b) benefit accrued if rightly done so on high moral grounds. Backing such an initiative is the fact that Pakistanis are one of the highest charity givers worldwide. What has been amiss is though in channelizing and institutionalizing this phenomena is no longer relevant in the discussions to implement solutions.
Another matter relates to Pakistanis who seek and adopt dual nationality. And some of us have chosen to become one such and come back home in positions of power and authority. The Supreme Court order directing government officials not to be or hide being dual nationals if some of them indeed are—it’s in the best national interest that they do declare. According to reports, there are 1,116 persons with dual and foreign nationality in government service. A total of 1,249 spouses of government officials have also been identified during the investigation.
The apex court has proposed to the federal government that “proper course would be for the parliament to consider the following proposals in the light of existing law discussed… the government should formulate negative list(s) of posts within government service to which citizens holding dual nationality, or whose spouses are dual nationals, should not normally be appointed for reasons of safeguarding national security and/or vital national interest, except with the permission of the respective cabinets”.
Also, the months and years ahead belong actually to our youth–socially and economically–the next generation and generations after them. Many of them are already abroad and many will be going abroad and many of them will come back or eventually would do so. Carrying dual nationality works great as an individual, but once you want to become or end up being part of the powerful community (bureaucracy) which is the force between the governed and the government, its a different story. Morality, ethics and introspection kicks in. Therefore, the top court’s directive would and should serve as a soft reminder for those who hold foreign nationality also and serves as a beacon for the future. As a public policy the perpetuation of dual nationals in government positions has and could create decision-making fault lines even if it is perceptive in nature for few perceptible moments, and on trade off basis, it could be beneficial provided status is known. Doubts, suspicions, controversies, conflict of interests, etc.—none of these can be really controlled by making laws–these are moral–and so is national interest that we must all surrender to.
The hard part for now is how to make these two moves become of high impact and sustainable. While taking care and caring for the homeless and the shelterless is of highest affirmative action category, the directive to out dual nationals and let them work in the government on a graduated scale of national security and national interest requires parliamentary bipartisan will and enforcement—above politics with a view to the future. Both need to be institutionalized though, and doesn’t cost really. Ignoring both is costlier though.
(The writer is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb and DesPardes presently based in Islamabad)