PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: Accepting 109 petitions of Pakistani women seeking Pakistan Origin Cards (POCs) for their Afghan spouses, the Peshawar High Court on Friday ordered the federal government to proceed with their cases in accordance with prescribed rules.

A bench consisting of Justice Syed Arshad Ali and Justice Wiqar Ahmad heard arguments by lawyers appearing for the petitioners, federal government and the National Database and Registration Authority before directing the centre to issue POCs to the spouses of petitioners provided they fulfilled the required criterion.

The detailed judgement will be released later.

Advocates Saifullah Muhib Kakakhel, Nouman Muhib Kakakhel, Mohammad Suhaib Malik and other lawyers appeared for the petitioners, whereas additional attorney general Sanaullah Khan and Shahid Imran Gigyani represented the federal government and Nadra, respectively.

PHC directs govt to follow rules; SC issues notice to ministries on plea against deportation

Mr Saifullah Muhib argued that Nadra Ordinance read with Nadra (POC) Rules 2002 provided for grant of POCs to spouses of Pakistani citizens, hence Afghan husbands of Pakistani women were entitled to it as well as visa-free entry and other rights as a citizen of Pakistan except for casting vote and a Pakistani passport.

He said non-grant of POC to the Afghan husbands of Pakistani women is violative of their fundamental rights. He argued that it was nowhere mentioned in the rules that an Afghan refugee was not a foreigner and therefore, he or she was not entitled to the provision of POC.

He contended that while petitioners fulfilled all the requirements, the government had been denying issuance of POCs to their spouses.

Citizenship Act

Section 10 of the Citizenship Act provides for provision of Pakistani citizenship to the foreigner wife of a Pakistani husband but not vice versa.

AAG Khan and lawyer Gigyani informed the court that the petitioners had been seeking POCs for their Afghan spouses, who either possessed POR (Proof of Registration) cards or ACC (Afghan Citizenship Cards).

They contended that as the spouses were Afghan refugees they were not included in the definition of a foreigner, so they were not entitled to POCs.

They stated that one of the conditions required for a foreign applicant was that he should have passport of his native country, whereas in present cases these spouses did not have that document.

Mass deportation

In Islamabad, the Supreme Court summoned Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan to assist it whether the existing three-judge bench or a larger bench should hear the petitions regarding mass deportation of Afghan nationals from Pakistan.

Headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, the three-judge bench — which also comprises Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ayesha A. Malik — issued notices to the federal government, apex committee through the interior ministry, which on Oct 3 had decided to deport Afghans, and the foreign ministry with a direction to furnish written replies to the petitions moved through Umer Ijaz Gilani.

The case was postponed until next week since the matter involves constitutional interpretation.

The petition was jointly moved on behalf of Farhatullah Babar, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, Amina Masood Janjua, Mohsin Dawar, Mohammad Jibran Nasir, Syed Muaz Shah, Pastor Ghazala Parveen, Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, Ahmad Shabbar, Advocate Imran Shafiq, Luke Victor, Sijal Shafiq and Rohail Kasi.

The court decided to club a fresh petition moved by faculty members of LUMS namely Uzair J. Kayani, Sadaf Aziz, Ali Raza, Angbeen Mirza, Madiha Tallat and Aisha Ahmad through their counsel Mian Samiuddin.

During the hearing, Justice Ayesha Malik pointed out Section 4 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 which suggests that petitions moved under Article 184(3) of the Constitution should be heard by a bench not less than of five judges.

The judge observed that Pakistan was a signatory to international treaties and therefore the development concerns the national commitment and whether the caretaker government could ignore such treaties.

Advocate Gillani argued that the government was deporting Afghans despite the fact that many of them have sought asylum.

The bench wondered should the court allow Afghans to continue when they had already been staying in Pakistan for the last 40 years.

The petition urged the court to restrain the federal government from detaining, forcefully deporting or otherwise harassing anyone who possesses a POR and ACC, an asylum-seeker application issued by the UNHCR or a pre-screening slip issued by UNHCR-partners SHARP and SEHAR.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

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