ISLAMABAD - Amidst protest and a walkout by the main opposition party PML-N and the ANP, PPP’s most trusted ally, the government on Tuesday introduced 22nd Amendment Bill, 2012 concerning dual nationality in the Senate, as even the resentment shown by the PPP top senators could not refrain it from the move.

The bill - which was later referred by the Senate chairman to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice without taking the consent of the house - is aimed at removing curbs on the Pakistanis holding dual nationality to become a legislator.

Presently, the country’s Constitution does not entitle any Pakistani, who holds the citizenship of a foreign state, to become member of the Parliament. The proposed amendment in Article 63(1)(c) will allow the parliamentarians to hold dual nationalities of 16 enlisted countries, with which Pakistan has signed bilateral agreements.

The PML-N and ANP legislators protested against the government’s move and staged walkout. Even, the PPP stalwarts, Mian Raza Rabbani and Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, registered their resentment over the bill on the floor of the house.

Senators belonging to ANP opposed the bill on the ground that the draft of the tabled bill was contradictory to what was earlier discussed by President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting with the coalition partners.

Senator Zahid Khan, while calling upon the government to withdraw the bill, made it clear that his party would not support the bill unless inclusion of ANP’s proposals in the draft.

Haji Adeel was of the view that the government had not incorporated ANP’s proposed amendments to the draft of the bill. “ANP has suggested that a dual national will not be able to hold important public office, including the offices of the president and prime minister, chief of army staff, chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, chief justice, judges of superior courts and bureaucrats above Grade-20.”

Adeel also moved a privilege motion against the amendment, arguing that how could 22nd amendment come into place before the 21st one.

Replying to his objection, Law Minister Farooq H Naek said the bill regarding increase in pensions of widows of judges, which was moved in the National Assembly on Monday, was actually the 21st Constitutional Amendment.

Aitzaz Ahsan from the PPP also expressed his reservations and said “When a person becomes a US national, he takes an oath which bounds him to be loyal to the country and take part in wars if needed.”

He asked why the US was listed among the 16 countries Pakistan had an agreement with, if it had such clauses in the oath. Senator Rabbani seconded Aitzaz and said the bill must be reviewed.

PML-N’s Zafar Ali Shah criticised Senate Chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari for referring the bill to concerned committee of the Senate prior to discussing it in the house. “The proposed amendment in the Constitution, which you had referred to the panel, did not even deserve to be placed before you, and it should have been thrown into dustbin straight away.”

On that, Tahir Mashhadi of MQM argued that the senators could only discuss it when the committee sent its report to the house.

PML-N Senator Raja Zafar-ul-Haq was of the view that the proposed constitutional amendment would put the sovereignty of the country at stake, as it was a foreign agenda, which was being pursued by some vested interests. “It will be a black law if passed,” he observed.

He said the clause regarding dual nationality had a great philosophy behind it and that the 1973 Constitution was prepared after taking on board all the stakeholders and not even the military dictators could courage to introduce any amendment to dual nationality laws.

Later, the house was adjourned to meet again today (Wednesday) at 5pm.