ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has given the federal interior ministry 15 days to decide the matter of awarding Pakistani citizenship to an Indian man, who married a Pakistani woman in 2004.
A three-judge-bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, on Tuesday resumed hearing of the interior ministry’s two-year-old plea against a Lahore High Court (LHC) order, directing the federal government to grant citizenship to the Indian national, Asghar Haider.
During today’s hearing, Attorney General Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan and amicus curiae Salman Aslam Butt supported that the Indian man should be given Pakistani nationality. However, Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, who was appearing on behalf of the interior ministry, opposed their stance.
Directing the ministry to decide the matter within two weeks, the court suspended its earlier notification to charge the Indian man Rs5 million for the citizenship. The bench noted that if someone cannot afford money, then how he could be deprived of his fundamental rights.
The interior ministry had challenged the LHC order in the apex court in 2016.
Sub-section 2 of Section 10 of Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 allows the grant of citizenship to a national’s foreign wife; however, it prohibits a foreign national husband of a Pakistani woman to attain citizenship of the country.
In its plea, the federal government feared that the LHC did not consider the Indo-Pak relations and the judgment will cause influx of Indian male citizens into Pakistan, causing a threat to national security.
The petition stated that Asghar had applied for the Pakistani citizenship after marrying Rukhsana in 2004. He was asked to deposit Rs5 million under the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951.
However, instead of depositing the payment, Haider had filed a writ petition along with his wife for the grant of citizenship, which was allowed by the LHC Multan bench on May 18, 2016.
Later, the interior ministry challenged the LHC order stating that the LHC has no jurisdiction to grant citizenship and it is mandatory to deposit foreign exchange equivalent to Rs5 million under Section 20 of the Pakistan citizenship Act 1951.
The government contends that granting citizenship to a foreigner woman married with Pakistani national cannot be treated as per a foreign man who has married a Pakistani woman and cannot be said discriminatory and is not a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution, which states that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of law and that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex.
The government has expressed apprehension that the foreign-origin man after marrying and obtaining the Pakistani nationality would be free to divorce his wife and move freely in Pakistan.
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