Peshawar High Court seeks govt response to plea against Citizenship Act

Published December 4, 2021
A police official stands guard outside the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in this file photo. — APP
A police official stands guard outside the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in this file photo. — APP

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has admitted to full hearing a petition against the Citizenship Act’s provision, which allows the country’s citizenship for the foreign wives of Pakistani men and not the foreign husbands of Pakistani women.

A bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Mussarat Hilali issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan and interior minister to file response to the petition of Pakistani woman Sameena Roohi, who sought orders for the government to grant Pakistani citizenship to her Afghan husband, Naseer Mohammad.

She claimed that the law discriminated against Pakistani women.

The petitioner requested the court to declare unconstitutional and discriminatory Section 10(2) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, under which the wife of a Pakistani national is entitled to the country’s citizenship, but the same is denied to the foreign husband of a Pakistani woman.

Admits petition on citizenship denial to woman’s Afghan husband

She sought orders to declare that Section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act was not brought in conformity with the fundamental rights within two years of the commencement of the Constitution, which was a mandatory requirement under Article 8(4) of the Constitution.

The petitioner’s counsel, Saifullah Muhib Kakakhel, contended that Section 10(2) of the law was discriminatory and didn’t treat men and women equally.

He said his client belonged to a respectable family, was married to an Afghan national, Naseer Mohammad, in 1985, and had five children from the marriage, who all were Pakistani nationals.

The lawyer said the petitioner’s husband had been working in Kuwait for a long time and he had only been granted Pakistani visa for a short period of one month or so to visit his family.

He said that the woman’s husband had not been given an appointment in Kuwait for visa due to Covid-19 pandemic, so he could not visit his family.

Mr Kakakhel contended that the petitioner had visited the Nadra and immigration offices to seek citizenship for her husband, but was told that Section 10(2) of the law applied only to the foreign wife of a Pakistani citizen.

He contended that the Federal Shariat Court had declared in 2008 the impugned provision repugnant to the injunctions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and called it discriminatory, against gender equality, and a violation of articles 2(a) and 25 of the Constitution.

The counsel argued that Pakistan was home to millions of refugees from Afghanistan, who shared the same culture and language, and a large number of them had contracted marriages with Pakistanis especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, but only the spouses of men are granted nationality of Pakistan and Pakistani women were deprived of the same.

He referred to several international conventions to which Pakistan is a signatory, including Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and said by not amending the Citizenship Act, the government had been violating all those international laws, which declared that there should be no discrimination on basis of gender.

The respondents in the petition are Nadra through its director-general, interior ministry through its secretary, and directorate-general of immigration and passport through it director-general.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2021

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