Pakistani nationality law
The Pakistani nationality law governs citizenship of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The principal legislation determining nationality, the Pakistan Citizenship Act, was passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 13 April 1951. Along with Cambodia, Pakistan is one of two countries in the Old World with unconditional jus soli citizenship rights.
Before the creation of Pakistan, its territories were part of the British Indian Empire (which included modern-day India, Bangladesh and Burma) and its people were British subjects. Pakistan was created on 14 August 1947 as a state for Muslims and held the status of a Dominion in the British Commonwealth; it included modern-day Bangladesh, which was known as East Bengal and East Pakistan and became independent from Pakistan in 1971. Upon independence from British colonial rule, several millions of Muslims emigrated to Pakistan from India, and several millions of Hindus and Sikhs who had been residing in what became Pakistan emigrated to India, raising a number of citizenship issues.
Pakistani Citizenship Act 1951
The Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 (also known as "Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 (II of 1951)) was enacted on 13 April 1951; stating the purpose of it is "to make provision for citizenship of Pakistan". The Act has since then been amended (1952, 1972, 1973, 2000) and there are still some more amendments that might be added. This Act referred to ways in which a person could gain Pakistani citizenship and how a person could lose or be denied their citizenship. The Act is divided into 23 sections each one outlining a different provision of citizenship.
The main sections of concern for gaining citizenship are:
- Section 3 – Citizenship at the date of commencement of this Act : At the commencement of this Act every person shall be deemed to be a citizen of Pakistan:
- People whose parents or grandparents were born in what is now considered Pakistan (after 14 August 1947).
- People whose parents or grandparents were born in the territory known as India on 31 March 1937
- People who were naturalized as a British subject in Pakistan
- People who migrated to the territory of Pakistan before this Act
- Section 4 – Citizenship by birth : Anyone born in Pakistan after this Act is a Pakistani Citizen (Except if the father is considered an enemy of the state or the father has immunity from legal process)
- Section 5 – Citizenship by descent: If one parent has Pakistani Citizenship then a person born to that parent may also get citizenship.
- Section 6 – Citizenship by Migration: If a person migrates from Indian territory before 1 January 1952, with the intention of permanently residing then they may receive citizenship. If he is a man, his wife and children may get Pakistani citizenship as well.
Sections concerning denied or renouncing citizenship are:
- Section 7 – Person migrating from the territories of Pakistan: Notwithstanding anything in sections 3, 4 and 6, a person who has migrated from the territories now included in Pakistan, after 1 March 1947, to the territories now included in India shall not be a citizen of Pakistan under the provision of these sections with an exception for the person who has returned with a permission of resettlement under the authority of law.
- Section 14 – Dual Citizenship or nationality not permitted: if you hold a citizenship outside of Pakistan the Pakistani citizenship is terminated
- Unless one decides to renounce the other
- Unless one has citizenship in Britain or its colonies
- Unless one is a female married to a man who is not a Pakistani citizen
- Section 14A – Renunciation of citizenship: If a person pledges allegiance or becomes a citizen of another country they have forfeited their Pakistani citizenship
- The exception is if a child (under the age of 21) who does not have his Pakistani citizenship and would like to resume it after turning 21 is allowed to do so.
- Section 16 – Deprivation of Citizenship: One may be deprived or stripped of citizenship if:
- Citizenship was obtained by false information
- The person in question has acted disloyal to the country
- One has been engaging with the enemy during times of war
- Section 16A – Certain Persons to lose and others to retain citizenship: regarding the times before and after 16 December 1971 and people residing in what was previously East Pakistan
- One is no longer a citizen if he/she is voluntarily residing in or migrated to the area now known as Bangladesh on 16 December 1971
- One is still a citizen if he/she voluntarily stayed or moved to West Pakistan on 16 December 1971
Amendments to the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951
The Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 rapidly underwent amendments since it was in acted on 13 April 1951. Some of these amendments were due to the fact that the original Act seemed somewhat incomplete, so the Pakistan Citizenship Rules 1952 were introduced. But also in 1971 Pakistan and Bangladesh separated and citizenship needed to be readdressed for that time, and Kashmir has also been an ongoing conflict and that needed to be addressed in the Act as well.
The Amendment that was focused on the Kashmir conflict is Section 14B. In this section it is stated that if someone from the State of Jammu and Kashmir decided to migrate to Pakistan and live there till the conflict is over then the person can receive Pakistani citizenship. The amendment that is focused on the Bangladesh and Pakistan issue is Section 16A; this amendment is a part of the Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance 1978. This amendment states anyone who on 16 December 1971 was not in West Pakistan has lost their citizenship, even if they were not in East Pakistan either that day.
The Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 (II of 1951) has been undergoing amendments more recently as well. One of the amendment attempts is by Bushra Gohar, to attempt to change the wordings of Section 10 in the Act (Married Women). The proposal is to change the heading to "Married Persons" and make it so that the section applies to more than just women. Another amendment that has been made is to Section 16B, regarding the Bangladesh separation. Shahnaz Saleem has suggested that the part of the section regarding people that were outside the Pakistan and Bangladesh border on 16 December 1971 should be removed. She states that there were many people escaping the war and trying to flee to West Pakistan but had to travel outside of the borders to reach there. She proposes that these people get the opportunity to naturalize again.
Since independence, the growth of expatriate Pakistani communities in the Middle East, Europe and North America has led to several changes in Pakistani nationality law. Although holding dual citizenship was not permitted under the 1951 law, Pakistan now recognizes and allows its citizens to hold dual citizenship.
Pakistanis with dual citizenship are forbidden to run for public office, sit in the assemblies, contest elections or join the Pakistani military. On 20 September 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified eleven lawmakers including Interior Minister Rehman Malik for failing to disclose their dual nationalities upon taking office. The proposed 21st amendment to the Pakistani constitution would have allowed dual citizens to hold public office and contest elections, but the amendment never passed. On 16 December 2013, The Senate of Pakistan unanimously passed "The Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, 2013", aimed at barring the civil servants of BPS-20 and above to hold a dual nationality, the bill will then be debated in the Lower House having passed from there it would then be implemented as an Act after the President of Pakistan signs it.
Both Pakistan and India law claim to the disputed region of Kashmir, which has been the subject of numerous wars between the two countries. The Pakistani Citizenship Act of 1951 allowed persons who were subjects of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to travel under a Pakistani passport and be considered a citizen of Pakistan without prejudice.
The independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 led to the abandonment in the Bengali-majority state of around half a million "stranded Pakistanis", who traced their ethno-linguistic heritage to the Bihar region. Despite official promises, Bangladesh has not accepted them nor does it recognise them as citizens. Conversely, a continuous migration of Bangladeshis between 1971 and 1995 led their population to cross the 1.6 million mark which was only 10,000 at the time of separation. These migrants are mostly illegal and are not given the citizenship as they migrated after the separation.
- Pakistani Citizenship Act, 1951
- The Pakistan Citizenship Act,1951
- Pakistani Citizenship Law
- Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Act,2010
- Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment)Act,2009
- Official website of the UNHCR country operations profile – Pakistan