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Peshawar High Court Decision Empowers Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan have expressed their appreciation for the recent decision made by the Peshawar High Court, which has ordered the issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards to Afghan husbands married to Pakistani women.
by TNN Editor - 20 Jun, 2023 1589
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Khalida Niaz

Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan have expressed their appreciation for the recent decision made by the Peshawar High Court, which has ordered the issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards to Afghan husbands married to Pakistani women.

Najiba Sabawoon, speaking on behalf of the Afghan community, stated that this decision is highly commendable and will have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of women, married to Afghan nationals, and their children. She expressed hope that not only the four individuals mentioned in the court order will receive these cards, but also all Afghans who have married Pakistani women will be eligible for them.

She emphasized that the Pakistan Origin Cards will address numerous challenges faced by these Afghan individuals. For instance, they will no longer be subjected to harassment by law enforcement agencies, and they will be able to conduct business in their own name. Previously, these residents were unable to engage in business activities under their own identity and often resorted to operating enterprises under the name of their wives or other relatives.

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It is important to note that the Islamabad High Court had previously ruled in favor of granting Pakistani citizenship to foreign-born children residing in Pakistan.

A Long-Awaited Step Towards Equality

Meanwhile, Shams Aziz, a resident of Kohat, expressed that efforts have been ongoing in Pakistan for some time now regarding Pakistani men who have married Afghan women. While some Afghan women have received cards, Pakistani women who have married Afghan men have faced challenges in this regard. Shams Aziz hailed this recent development as a positive step forward.

As an Afghan national and an MPhil student at Quaid-e-Azam University, Shams Aziz shared that the current situation in Afghanistan is highly uncertain, with no clarity about what the future holds. Given this context, he considers the decision to issue Pakistan Origin Cards as a favorable one.

Highlighting the ongoing crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which impacts nearly one million individuals, Shams Aziz emphasized that this decision is particularly welcomed by those who have married Pakistani women. He further urged the authorities and other institutions to promptly implement this decision, as it has the potential to address the challenges faced by many families.

Saifullah Mohib Kakakhel, the lawyer representing the four women who filed the petition, explained that the court has ordered the issuance of Pakistan Origin Cards to the Afghan husbands of these Pakistani women, acknowledging the difficulties they have encountered.

According to Kakakhel, these women faced a predicament where their children and themselves were in Pakistan while their husbands resided in other countries, requiring them to obtain visas every time their husbands visited. Expired visas posed challenges to their stay in the country.

Expanded Rights and Opportunities with Pakistan Origin Card

According to Saifullah Mohib Kakakhel, obtaining Pakistan Origin Cards will grant Afghan husbands of Pakistani women various rights, significantly improving their lives. With these cards, they will have the ability to vote and pursue government jobs. Moreover, they can freely conduct business and reside in Pakistan without the need for a visa.

Kakakhel highlights that these husbands will now possess all the rights enjoyed by Pakistani citizens. While some cases involve individuals seeking full citizenship in Pakistan, a few such cases have already been decided upon, while others are still under consideration.

He emphasized that this decision brings a ray of hope for those who have married Pakistani women and desire to establish a permanent presence in the country.

Equalizing Citizenship Rights through the Pakistan Citizenship Act

According to Saifullah Mohib Kakakhel, under the Pakistan Citizenship Act, any Pakistani man who marries a woman from another country enables his wife to obtain Pakistani citizenship. However, Pakistani women who marry foreign men were previously denied the right to Pakistani citizenship. The Federal Sharia Court has deemed Section 10(2) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 unconstitutional, recognizing it as discriminatory against these families.

Prior to this decision, the Peshawar High Court had already ruled in favor of granting citizenship to the foreign husbands of Pakistani women.

In 2021, a woman named Samina Ruhi, represented by lawyer Saifullah Mohib Kakakhel Advocate, filed an application in the Peshawar High Court to challenge the validity of Section 10(2) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951. Consequently, the court ordered the issuance of a Pakistan Origin Card to the husband of Samina Ruhi.

Observing World Refugee Day: Standing with Displaced Individuals

Today, June 20, marks World Refugee Day, a global observance that aims to demonstrate solidarity with individuals who have been forced to leave their homelands or are living in a state of migration to protect their lives.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently over 10 million forcibly displaced refugees worldwide. Pakistan, in particular, is host to a significant Afghan refugee population. While 1.7 million Afghan refugees reside legally in Pakistan, an estimated 8 million Afghan refugees are living in the country without proper documentation. Moreover, the number of unregistered Afghan refugees is believed to be even higher, as numerous Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan following the Taliban regime's takeover, often entering the country through illegal means.