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Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat decided on Wednesday to hold a ‘thorough debate’ on a private-member bill that seeks barring civil servants from holding dual nationality.

The panel met under the chair of Rana Maqbool Ahmad from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). It reviewed The Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill 2021 moved by PML-N’s Afnan Ullah Khan.

The bill seeks to amend Section 5 of the Civil Servants Act 1973 by adding a provision that a civil servant holding dual nationality or citizenship of any foreign country shall not be entitled for appointment.

Briefing the Senate panel, Khan, the bill’s mover, said, there have been examples that dual national officers, in the past, made crucial decisions on the “last day of their service before retirement – and after that they left the country— and never came back.”

He asked, “Why only lawmakers are barred from having dual nationality? Why not civil servants keeping in view that bureaucracy is an integral part of any government?”

However, his party colleague Saadia Abbasi was of the view that there should be a comprehensive briefing on the impact of the proposed amendment regarding dual nationality before moving ahead with it.

Saifullah Khan Nyazee from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) supported the bill.

The JI senator was of the view that Pakistanis who were dual nationals “took oath of allegiance, when they accepted any foreign nationality, wherein they reiterated that they would stay loyal and even fight for that particular country. How can we allow dual nationals on sensitive positions of the civil service? Allowing dual nationals to call the shots in Pakistan’s already powerful bureaucracy entails serious and damaging repercussions,” Ahmed remarked.

Chairman committee said a comprehensive briefing is required to understand the impact of legislation to bar civil servants from holding dual nationality. He directed that verbatim of debate on this bill in National Assembly be provided to members before next meeting of the committee. The matter was deferred till the Senate committee’s next meeting.

The Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill 2021 originated from NA where it was jointly moved by three lawmakers from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)— Jam Abdul Karim Bijar, Syed Agha Rafiullah and Abdul Qadir Patel. It was referred to the NA Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat which passed it. The bill was finally passed by the lower house of the Parliament in November last year.

Apart from PML-N, PTI and JI senators, committee member Kamil Ali Agha from Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) and senior officials from relevant federal government departments attended the Senate panel’s meeting.

Separately, NA Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat also met on Wednesday under the chair of Kishwar Zehra from Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P). The committee expressed displeasure over non-provision of data related to official vehicles used by the Cabinet Division and sought the details of all the related vehicles by next meeting.

National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) officials briefed the committee on issues related to power distribution companies (Discos) and overbilling to power consumers.

The committee was of the view that high voltage transmission lines should not be installed at low range in the congested areas and steps be taken to ensure public safety in congested areas where high voltage transmission lines are set up. The committee expressed its annoyance over the absence of senior K-Electric officials in the meeting and summoned them in the next meeting along with their performance reports. The committee chairperson was of the view that K-Electric was sending inflated bills of millions of rupees to the consumers. She said K-Electric was receiving additional charges from consumers of numerous residential buildings whereas these charges were to be received from the builders concerned when the related buildings were under construction.

“The K-Electric officials, in collusion with builder mafia, have passed this burden on consumers who are paying additional charges that were supposed to be paid by the builders,” she said. Zehra reiterated that NA panel would take on the ‘malpractices’ of K-Electric.

The NEPRA officials said net metering would help lessen the burden on Discos and penalise those Discos the performance of which was not satisfactory.

Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan and committee members including Uzma Riaz from PTI, Shahnaz Saleem Malik from PML-N, Mohsin Dawar and Secretary Cabinet Division Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera as well as other senior officials from departments concerned attended the meeting.

This report was first published in Business Recorder on Jan 20, 2022.