KATHMANDU, June 19: The citizenship bill that is under discussion at the federal parliament almost for two years now continues to remain in limbo as the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and the opposition parties stand at odds over the provision of naturalized citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali nationals. At the heart of the dispute is: how long, if at all, a foreign woman married to a Nepali national should wait to acquire naturalized citizenship.
While the ruling NCP lawmakers argue that it is detrimental to the country’s national interests to provide citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali nationals immediately after the marriage, the lawmakers belonging to the main opposition party and Janata Samajbadi Party do not buy such argument of the ruling party lawmakers. The NCP and JSP have argued that the foreign woman marrying Nepali national should be provided naturalized citizenship as per the provisions made in the Constitution of Nepal, 2015.
As the differences between the ruling and the opposition parties continues, the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives headed by the NCP has recently put forth a proposal to grant citizenship certificate seven years after the marriage, provided she has continuously lived in the country. The house panel has suggested issuing some sort of residence permit until the citizenship certificate is finally issued to such women.
Although Chairperson Shashi Shrestha called a meeting of the house committee on Wednesday to settle the issue after a hiatus of a long time, the meeting ended inconclusively after the NC stood opposed to the idea. Arguing that the issue was a highly sensitive one, Chairperson Shrestha gave a five-day time for parties to forge a national consensus on the issue and help pass the bill at the earliest.
Senior leaders of the ruling NCP and the main opposition NC have since held a series of meetings. But the consensus on the issue has still appeared elusive.
A meeting of Prime Minister KP Oli, NCP Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Deputy Parliamentary Party leader Subas Nembang on Wednesday had decided to pass the bill in consensus with other political parties in parliament.
Amid concerns that the issue of naturalized citizenship could further delay the endorsement of the citizenship bill, Prime Minister Oli on Thursday invited senior NC leaders at his official residence in Baluwatar to learn about the official position of the NC. NC leaders then clarified that NC is firm on its position that a foreign woman married to a Nepali national should be granted citizenship certificate as and when she wants after the marriage.
NC Vice President Bimalendra Nidhi, Central Working Committee (CWC) members Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, Minendra Rijal, Dilendra Badu, Radhe Shyam Adhikari and Ramesh Lekhak had reached Baluwatar to hold the discussion. A meeting of the NC office bearers was held to discuss the issue before the meeting with Prime Minister Oli.
NCP lawmakers including Deputy Parliamentary Party leader Nembang maintain that there should be no problem in introducing a seven-year period after marriage to acquire naturalized citizenship as similar provision is in place in neighboring India too. NCP lawmakers maintain that it would be detrimental to the interest of the country to provide citizenship certificate immediately after the marriage given the open border the country shares with India.
The citizenship bill was first registered at the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the federal parliament in August 2018. Although the committee has already held over 140 meetings, the political parties represented in the federal parliament have failed to find a meeting point on the issue of naturalized citizenship.
It is estimated that thousands of people including those seeking to acquire citizenship certificates through their mothers’ names are unable to acquire citizenship for years as the citizenship bill remains on hold in parliament. House committee Chairperson Shrestha has urged the political parties to find a way out at the earliest so that such people do not have to remain deprived of citizenship certificates.