Mon April 24, 2017
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Opinion by M. Nadeem Alizai

Will the bill on dual citizenship prove efficacious?

Recently the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of the Parliament) has passed a bill to prevent dual citizenship holders from making way to the cabinet. Many put weight behind the decision while some flared concerns and criticism. What truly struck me is that the skeptics have confused patriotism with nationalism. As a matter of fact, the two concepts are not going in the parallel directions.

As the theories go, nationalism is attachment to a country and commitments to protect the national interests at any cost. Nationalism resists all challenges to keep the national integrity intact. On the other hand patriotism is merely a cultural attachment that could change when new nationality is acquired. Nationalism is a broad concept and does not vary with geography unlike patriotism.

Therefore, the real issue with dual citizenship is ethical and legal rather than anything else. From Afghanistan’s perspective the decision is welcoming because in other countries the dual nationality holders contribute a lot toward development of their country of first nationality—in terms of remittances. But, Afghans who are enjoying high posts are of different approach. They want to shift the capital to foreign accounts that hurt the national economy. Their foreign bank accounts are loaded with cash brought in hands in Afghanistan, no matter through white or black means. As per observations, those holding dual nationality have flown to the country of second nationality to avoid being caught in the corruption cases. Kabul Bank scandal is an epitome of fleeing from the justice. The stark fact is that dual citizenship holders could not be prosecuted in the absence of extradition treaties because the hands of the Interpol are tied in such cases.

Most Afghans living abroad are sending remittances to Pakistan. Similarly, they do not import Afghan products as Indians or Pakistanis do. Indians living in foreign countries import many products from India including spices, vegetables and fruits which is counted as a key source of revenue. However, the dual nationality holder Afghans should have the right to vote if not the privilege of becoming a minister.  Another thing that raises many eyebrows is gray areas in the recently approved bill as parliamentarians enjoy immunity when it comes to possession of dual citizenship. Therefore, the lawmakers should bring another bill that would bar people with dual nationalities from contesting parliamentary elections, because Afghans time and again have expressed concerns over poor performance of the legislators. Like ministers and other high-ups, the lawmakers with dual citizenships always have Plan B—to leave Afghanistan after making mess. The dual nationalities holder senators or MPs could not give surety that they would not abandon Afghanistan, then why not to prevent them from contesting polls. Why they should be allowed to land in Afghanistan and decide about fate of the war-weary nation which direly need sincere people to resolve their problems and plug the loopholes in the system. It has been noticed that lawmakers with dual citizenship consider themselves above the average Afghans who are the victims of maladministration. It is no denying that divided loyalty does not work. One cannot sail in two boats at a time. It is very difficult to be a nonpartisan when personal interests come into play. The lawmakers have to surrender one nationality before going to elections, because their sincerity is suspected as one cannot be sincere at the same with two countries with two different oaths. 

I wonder how could a lawmaker or high-ranking official with dual nationality could be sincere with Afghanistan when he says, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”

The decision to bring the dual nationals home back in the early years of the democratic setup was a right one because Afghanistan needed skilled people to run the state machinery. Since it has been over a decade therefore there is no void in the civilian and military apparatus to fill with people who possess more than one nationality. If the government does, so it would result in a series of bad decisions and incompetence, because as common practice dual citizenship possessors give priority to interests of the second country which is more developed. It is very easy for them to leave the ancestral country if circumstances are no more favorable. This is the case that such people are not well-received by public in Afghanistan. The nation is kept on toes to prepare for the worst if the ministers with dual nationality are accommodated in the cabinet. The public would have no choice but to deal with untoward situations on their own when ministers departure for country of second citizenship. The bureaucratic structure needs to be very meticulous, because those at the helm of power could not negate public aspirations.

Chances are high that the ministers with dual nationality would not take Afghanistan’s challenges serious because they would be under pressure from the country of second citizenship. If such people are picked as cabinet members it would simply mean going in someone else direction. In a nutshell we should not set sail using someone else’s star.

The writer is a staff member. He can be reached at nadeemalizai@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @nadeemalizai.

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