The proposal to amend the provision on citizenship in the draft constitution, allowing either of the parents to pass citizenship to their children, has been blocked after objection from the ruling CPN-UML leaders.
The objection came immediately after the top leaders of major parties— Nepali Congress (NC), UML and UCPN (Maoist)— assured a delegation of rights activists on Monday that the current provision, which requires a person to provide proofs of nationality of both parents in order to be Nepali (the “and” clause), would be rectified.
Based on the agreement reached among the leaders — Prime Minister and NC president Sushil Koirala, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli and UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal — the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC) of the Constituent Assembly (CA) had prepared a proposal to change the “and” clause.
According to Baburam Bhattarai, a Maoist leader and the chairman of PDCC, the proposal read: a person will be eligible for a citizenship by descent if the individual’s father or mother was Nepali at the time of his/her birth, if that person is a permanent resident of Nepal and if that person has not acquired foreign citizenship through either of his/her parents.
“But since at the last minute, a leader from UML objected to the proposal, the process could not move forward,” wrote Bhattarai on his Facebook wall. Bhattarai could not be reached for further comment.
According to UCPN (Maoist) Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha, UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal objected to the proposal, which was seconded by the party’s leaders Jhalanath Khanal and Oli.
“This has questioned credibility of the party’s leadership,” Shrestha told the Post.
He said he would meet the campaigners on Wednesday to discuss the issue and find a way to approach the leaders again.
Members of the delegation who had met the leaders on Monday morning found the reversal in the UML’s position “upsetting”.
“UML has to clarify its position on the issue of citizenship. If it is for the “and” provision, it goes against its own election manifesto, in which it has clearly said that the party would deal with the existing unequal citizenship laws,” said Sapana Pradhan Malla, a former CA member who was a part of the team that garnered assurances of change on Monday.
Khanal, however, rubbished the claim that his party was against the proposal. “We are always in favour of gender-equality. Issuing citizenship in the name of father or mother, if both are Nepalis, is not a problem for us. But we have to be cautious while issuing citizenship for children born in districts bordering India in Tarai as well as Tibet in the mountain through mothers,” Khanal said.
He added that other parties should also come clean on this sensitive issue before they decide anything. Khanal claimed that around 30,000 women get married with foreigners annually.
Although the PDCC’s proposal has been thwarted, Prime Minister Koirala told a group of female NC lawmakers that their demand for the “or” proposal would be fulfilled. CA member Sujata Koirala-led team of female lawmakers submitted a memorandum on, among other things, citizenship provisions in the new constitution. The team has also demanded that the provisions on obtaining naturalised citizenship for foreigners married to Nepalis must be the same irrespective of gender.