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ISLAMABAD, Feb 15: The government has opposed granting citizenship rights to foreigners marrying Pakistani women, saying that such a provision can be used by any country to ‘plant their agents in Pakistan’, apart from social and economic implications.

The obsevation was made by the government in comments submitted to a full bench of the Federal Shariat Court, examining Citizenship Act 1951 in exercise of its suo motu powers.

The court, taking note of the fact that under Section 10 of the Act a married Pakistani man is entitled to obtain Pakistani citizenship for his foreign wife, was trying to determine if the provision was discriminatory and repugnant to Islamic principles and violative of the principles of democracy, equality and social justice.

The government failed to explain why only foreign men and not women could misuse such a facility.

The Federal Shariat Court’s full bench was headed by Chief Justice Haziqul Khairi and comprised Justice Dr Fida Muhammad Khan and Justice Salahuddin Mirza.

According to the government, which submitted its response

in consultation with the ministry of interior, the directorate-general of immigration and passports and the provincial governments, foreign women marrying Pakistani husbands could not be equated with foreign men marrying Pakistani women.

The government said it would amount to a blanket approval for all the foreign nationals to marry Pakistani women and obtain Pakistani nationality.

Most of them, it said, would misuse the provision, especially illegal immigrants like Afghan refugees, Bangldeshis and nationals of other South Asian states who ‘do not intend to return to their country’.

The government said that citizenship rights like entitlement to vote, seeking appointment to constitutional posts and equal opportunities in matters of public appointments might be weighed with their political or national interests.

Keeping in view the matter’s public importance, the Federal Shariat Court ordered the secretary of the ministry of religious affairs, the government of Pakistan, the National Commission for Women, the Aurat Foundation, the Human Rights Commission, Apwa, vice-chairmen of the Pakistan Bar Council and provincial Bar councils, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and presidents of the high court Bar associations of Sindh, Punjab, the NWFP and Balochistan to file their comments in three weeks and appear before the Court on

March 14.