ISLAMABAD - Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s stepping down from his party’s leadership on account of being a dual-national appears to have further questioned the legality of his already controversial agreement with the government that does not have any legal cover in the light of Pakistan’s constitutional provisions.

In addition, an international electoral watchdog’s country head terms Qadri’s assumption of a political party’s leadership (before resignation) as being in violation of electoral laws and ‘morally incorrect.’ 

Dr Qadri on Sunday had announced having quit the Presidentship of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), been replaced by Dr Raheeq Abbasi. Qadri, a Pakistani-Canadian, is not eligible to hold an office in the light of existing electoral laws till he gives up foreign nationality. This seems putting a question mark on the authenticity and legality of Islamabad Long March Declaration, an agreement on electoral matters and caretaker setup Qadri had signed with the government functionaries on the last month’s 17th.

In the story titled, “Toothless ECP shy to take up Qadri nationality issue,” printed last Wednesday, this journalist had reported about Article 5 (1) of The Political Parties Order 2002 that does not allow a dual-national to be an office-bearer of a political party. Although, the ECP record lists Dr Qadri as PAT’s President, he had signed the Islamabad Declaration in his capacity as Chairman PAT and founding leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI), a welfare body operating in several countries of the world.

Spokesman MQI Omar Abbasi had admitted that the said electoral provision did now allow political parties’ memberships for dual-nationals adding that PAT would be restructured and reconstituted in the coming days, accordingly. “We’re aware of the matter. Pakistan Awami Tehreek, as of now, is a de-active entity. We haven’t activated it as yet. We’ll decide how to go ahead keeping in view the Political Parties Order 2002 once PAT is activated,” he had told The Nation. Talking to this correspondent, Country Director Democracy Reporting International (DRI) in Pakistan Viladimir Pran said, “He (Qadri) talked a lot about morality, demanded electoral reforms and changing the system whereas he was the one violating electoral laws. He was preaching something but practicing otherwise. This is morally incorrect,” Pran said adding that Islamabad Declaration did not have any legal or moral standing.

“That was just a political agreement. Neither it is recognised by the constitution nor by the electoral laws. And by signing that document, Qadri showed that he violated law. The agreement has no legitimacy and it lacks moral standing. The issue is of Qadri’s moral credibility. One should practice what he preaches. How could he (Qadri) demand electoral reforms while violating these laws at the same time? “

According to Section 5 (1) of The Political Parties Order 2002, “Every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan, shall have the right to form or be a member of a political party or be otherwise associated with a political party or take part in political activities or be elected as an office-bearer of a political party: Provided that a person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being, elected or chosen as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) under Article 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or under any other law for the time being in force.”

The Article 63 (1) (c) states, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if, he ceases to be a citizen of Pakistan, or acquires the citizenship of a foreign state.” Dr Qadri has publicly admitted of having acquired Canadian nationality in the year 2009. While the MQI Spokesman Omar Abbasi insisted that PAT was a dysfunctional or de-active body (till last Wednesday,) the Islamabad Declaration envisaged PAT’s active involvement in politics. “The treasury benches in complete consensus with Pakistan Awami Tehreek will propose names of two honest and impartial persons for appointment as caretaker prime minister,” says the second point of the Declaration.

Vladimir Pran cites related constitutional provisions to contend that the proposed candidates for a caretaker prime minister must be agreed upon between the government and the opposition. “This means that even if the government honours this agreement, the candidates can still be rejected by the opposition or the parliamentary committee,” he said adding, in case there is no consensus in the committee, the responsibility of selecting a caretaker PM falls upon the ECP which will have to select from the four proposed names, two each by the PM and the Leader Of The Opposition.

In the list of all the 227 ECP-registered political parties, PAT is 35th. It lists Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri as its President and locates its Central Secretariat at 365-M, Model Town, Lahore. House number 7, Street 21, F-8/2 Islamabad is listed as another party address. Strangely, Section 5 (1) of The Political Parties Order 2002 was not known to the Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim till this newspaper contacted him some days back. “This matter was not known to me. You are the first one to bring this issue in my attention. If the electoral laws do not allow a dual-national to have a political party’s membership, we’ll certainly look into it,” he had said.