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Understanding the Status of Aliens and Citizenship in Pakistan


In Pakistan, the legal status of aliens and citizenship is defined by the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951, as amended by subsequent ordinances and acts. This blog aims to provide a clear understanding of the definitions and regulations surrounding aliens and citizenship in Pakistan, focusing on the rights and responsibilities of non-citizens and the criteria for acquiring Pakistani citizenship.

Useful links on citizenship & domicile

Defining Aliens in Pakistan

According to the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951, an alien is defined as a person who is neither a citizen of Pakistan nor a Commonwealth citizen with the status of a Commonwealth citizen under the British Nationality Act of 1948 and a British Protected person under the same Act. Essentially, an alien is any individual who does not fall under the categories of Pakistani citizens or specified Commonwealth citizens.

Registration of Alien Visitors

Alien visitors in Pakistan are required to register with the police within 24 hours of their arrival in the country. Additionally, if these visitors move from one area to another, they must register again with the police in each new area they visit. This registration process is essential for monitoring the movement and presence of non-citizens in the country.

Acquisition of Citizenship

There are several ways through which an individual can acquire Pakistani citizenship:

  • By Descent: Persons whose parents or grandparents were born in territories now included in Pakistan and have not been permanently residing outside Pakistan since August 14, 1947, are deemed to be citizens of Pakistan.
  • By Domicile: Individuals who had any parent or grandparents born in territories included in India on March 31, 1937, and who have been domiciled in Pakistan or its territories at the commencement of the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951 are eligible for citizenship.
  • By Naturalization: A person who is naturalized as a British subject in Pakistan and has renounced the citizenship of the United Kingdom and any foreign state before the commencement of the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951 is eligible for citizenship.
  • By Migration: Individuals who migrated to territories now included in Pakistan from any territory in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent with the intention of settling there permanently before the commencement of the Act can acquire citizenship.
  • By Birth: Every person born in Pakistan after the commencement of the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951 is considered a citizen of Pakistan by birth, with certain exceptions, such as if the father possesses immunity from suit and legal process as an envoy of an external sovereign accredited in Pakistan and is not a citizen of Pakistan, or if the father is an enemy alien, and the birth occurs in a place under enemy occupation.
  • By Incorporation of New Territory: Acquisition of citizenship may also occur when new territories are incorporated into Pakistan.

Dual Nationality in Pakistan

The Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance of 1972 allows for dual nationality in specific circumstances. Under this ordinance, a person who is a citizen of Pakistan can also be a citizen of the U.K. and Colonies or any other country specified by the Federal Government through a notification in the official gazette.

Citizenship of Residents Under Protection of Pakistan Passport

As per the Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 1973, a subject of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, who is resident in the U.K. or any other country specified by the Federal Government and under the protection of a Pakistan passport, is considered and always deemed to have been a citizen of Pakistan, without prejudice to their rights and status as a subject of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Understanding the status of aliens and the criteria for acquiring Pakistani citizenship is crucial for individuals visiting or residing in Pakistan. The Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951, along with subsequent amendments, provides a legal framework to regulate the presence of non-citizens and to determine eligibility for citizenship based on various factors such as descent, domicile, naturalization, migration, and birth. Additionally, the provisions related to dual nationality and citizenship for residents under protection of a Pakistan passport further contribute to the complexity of citizenship laws in the country. For any specific inquiries or legal concerns regarding aliens and citizenship in Pakistan, it is recommended to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney or legal firm.

Citizenship Registration and Obligations for Pakistani Citizens

This legal note provides a concise overview of the citizenship registration process and related obligations for Pakistani citizens, including provisions regarding married women’s citizenship status, registration requirements, and penalties for non-compliance.

Married Women’s Citizenship Status

In Pakistan, in most cases, married women do not automatically acquire Pakistani citizenship when their husbands do. However, there is a provision for alien women (non-citizens) who are married to Pakistani citizens or to individuals who, if not deceased, could have acquired Pakistani citizenship. Such alien women have the right to apply to the Federal Government for citizenship registration. They can do so by taking an oath of allegiance and obtaining a certificate of domicile. The woman may be registered as a citizen of Pakistan regardless of whether she is 21 years of age or not.

Registration Process

Citizenship registration in Pakistan is governed by the National Registration Act of 1973. Every citizen of Pakistan, whether inside or outside the country, who has reached the age of 18 years, is required to register themselves under this act. Additionally, parents or guardians of citizens who have not yet reached the age of 18 years must register such citizens on their behalf.

The Registrar-General is responsible for overseeing the registration process, and every citizen who has attained the age of 18 years and registered themselves under the act is issued an identity card. This identity card serves as an official document confirming the individual’s citizenship.

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Obligations and Consequences of Not Having an Identity Card

Having an identity card is mandatory for citizens of Pakistan. Citizens above the age of 18 years who do not possess or produce an identity card may face several consequences, including:

  • Travel Restrictions: A citizen who has attained the age of 18 years but does not possess or produce an identity card will not be granted a passport, permit, or any other travel document to leave Pakistan.
  • Voting Rights: Citizens without a valid identity card may be deprived of their right to vote in elections.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The National Registration Act stipulates penalties for offences related to citizenship registration. A person found guilty of not complying with the act’s provisions may be subject to a fine not exceeding Rs. 50. In default of payment of the fine, the individual may face simple imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 days.

Citizenship registration is an essential process in Pakistan, and it is crucial for citizens to obtain and maintain a valid identity card. Married women who are aliens and wish to become Pakistani citizens have the right to apply for citizenship through the specified application process. Citizens above the age of 18 years must ensure they possess a valid identity card to exercise their travel and voting rights. Non-compliance with citizenship registration may result in penalties as outlined by the National Registration Act of 1973.

Offences, Deprivation, and Rights of Aliens in Pakistan

This legal note outlines the offences, deprivation of citizenship, and certain rights granted to aliens in Pakistan under the Pakistan Citizenship Act and other relevant laws.

Offences and Penalties

Section 10 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act deals with offences related to the publication or communication of confidential information acquired during employment for purposes of the Act or possession of such information that has been disclosed unlawfully. Any person who commits either of the following acts shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term that may extend up to six months, or with a fine that may extend up to Rs. 1,000, or both:

  • Publishing or Communicating Confidential Information: A person employed for purposes of the Act who discloses information acquired during their employment to any person outside the ordinary course of their duties.
  • Publishing or Communicating Disclosed Information: A person who possesses information that they know has been disclosed in contravention of the Act and communicates or publishes that information to another person.

Exceptions to this section include:

(i) Information for Criminal Proceedings: Publication or communication of information for the purpose of any criminal proceedings is exempt from prosecution under this section.

(ii) Gazetted Officers and Authorized Personnel: Communication or publication of information to gazetted officers authorized by the Federal Government or the Registrar-General is not punishable under this section.

Deprivation of Citizenship

The Federal Government has the authority to revoke certificates of domicile or naturalization if it is discovered that they were obtained through fraud, false representations, or concealment of material facts. Additionally, a certificate of naturalization may be revoked under the following circumstances:

  • Acts of Disloyalty: Citizenship may be revoked if the individual engages in acts of disloyalty to the State.
  • Trading with the Enemy in Wartime: Citizenship may be revoked if the individual is found to be trading with the enemy during wartime.
  • Imprisonment: Citizenship may be revoked if the person is imprisoned for 12 months or more within five years of being granted naturalization.
  • Continuous Absence: Citizenship may be revoked if the individual remains continuously absent from Pakistan for seven years, unless the absence was in service for the Government or an international organization of which Pakistan was a member during that period, or if the person has registered annually at the Pakistan Consulate or Mission as required.

Rights of Aliens in Pakistan

Alien enemies residing in Pakistan can bring suits with the permission of the central government. Other aliens, excluding alien enemies, are allowed to sue without prior permission. However, during and after the Indo-Pakistan war of September 1965, the High Court ruled that an alien enemy is not competent to institute or continue a suit. They are also not allowed to file an appeal or execute a decree obtained during hostilities. Nevertheless, if a suit is filed against an enemy defendant, they have the right to defend the suit and file an appeal if a decision is given against them during the continuation of hostilities. However, they are barred from executing any benefits they obtained from such litigation.

The Pakistan Citizenship Act sets out strict provisions for offences related to the disclosure of confidential information and allows for the deprivation of citizenship if obtained through fraudulent means or if certain conditions are met. Alien enemies and other aliens have specific rights in terms of filing suits in Pakistan, subject to certain limitations during times of hostilities. It is important for both citizens and aliens in Pakistan to be aware of these legal aspects to comply with the law and avoid potential penalties.

Legal Analysis: Sharifan vs. Federation of Pakistan – Equality and Citizenship Rights

In the case of Sharifan vs. Federation of Pakistan, the constitutional validity of Section 10 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act was under scrutiny. The petitioner, a Pakistani woman, sought citizenship for her Indian-origin husband based on their marriage. However, her husband was denied citizenship on the grounds that Section 10 of the Act only allows foreigner women married to Pakistani men to acquire citizenship, but there is no provision for foreigner men marrying Pakistani women to obtain citizenship through marriage.

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The petitioner argued that this distinction was discriminatory and violated the principle of equality enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees equal treatment to all citizens. She contended that foreigner men marrying Pakistani women should be entitled to acquire citizenship in the same way as foreigner women marrying Pakistani men.

However, the court rejected the petitioner’s claim and upheld the constitutionality of Section 10. The court’s reasoning was based on the concept of Private International Law and the position of women in such laws. Private International Law, also known as conflict of laws, deals with legal issues involving individuals with connections to more than one legal jurisdiction. The court reasoned that providing special protection to foreigner women marrying Pakistani men aligns with the principles of Private International Law, as it aims to protect the rights of women who might face legal challenges or discrimination in foreign jurisdictions.

The court further held that the equality clause of the Constitution (Article 25) does not necessarily require identical treatment of all individuals in all circumstances. In certain cases, special protection or considerations may be necessary to uphold the rights and interests of specific groups, including women, to ensure their rights are safeguarded and respected.

Although the petitioner argued for equal treatment, the court’s decision was based on a different perspective, emphasizing the need for protective measures for women in cross-border marriages. The court’s ruling, in this case, upheld the validity of Section 10 and its differentiated treatment based on the gender of the foreigner spouse seeking Pakistani citizenship through marriage.

It is essential to understand that legal decisions are based on a range of factors, including social, cultural, and international considerations, and the courts must carefully balance the principles of equality with the need to protect vulnerable groups in particular contexts. As such, constitutional interpretation often involves a complex analysis of various factors and legal principles.

Context:  Sharifan vs. Federation of Pakistan – Citizenship and Private International Law

Citation: 1998 PLD 59 (Lahore High Court)


  • Appellant: Sharifan
  • Opponent: Federation of Pakistan

Key Constitutional Provisions:

  • Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, Article 10 and Schedule
  • Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, Articles 25 and 199

The case involves a constitutional petition challenging the provisions of Section 10 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, in the context of Private International Law. The petitioner, an Indian citizen, married a Pakistani woman and sought Pakistani citizenship on the basis of Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality to citizens. However, the court ruled that the specific provision in Section 10 of the Citizenship Act granting citizenship to alien women married to Pakistani men did not violate the equality clause. It reasoned that such provisions were not discriminatory but rather based on the position of women in Private International Law, where special protection for women married to Pakistani men was deemed necessary.

Detailed Analysis:

  • Concession to Alien Women: The court acknowledged that Section 10 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act granted a special concession to alien women married to citizens of Pakistan. Such women were entitled, upon application to the Federal Government in the prescribed manner, and upon obtaining a certificate of domicile and taking an oath of allegiance, to be registered as citizens of Pakistan. This concession, however, was available exclusively to alien women and not to male aliens.
  • Article 25 of the Constitution: The petitioner relied on Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the law to all citizens. However, the court clarified that Article 25 applies to citizens only and does not extend to non-citizens. Therefore, the petitioner, being an Indian citizen, could not claim citizenship under Article 25 of the Constitution.
  • Protection for Women: The court emphasized that the provision of Section 10 of the Citizenship Act, which grants citizenship to alien women married to Pakistani men, was not discriminatory. It explained that Article 25 of the Constitution envisages a preferred position for women, allowing the state to make special provisions for their protection. Hence, the provision in question was enacted in line with the position of women under Private International Law, and it did not violate the principles of equality.
  • Domicile under Private International Law: The court referred to the concept of domicile under Private International Law. Domicile of origin is acquired by operation of law at birth, while domicile of choice is acquired through actual removal to another country accompanied by the animus manendi (intention to reside there permanently). Section 16 of the Succession Act, 1925, states that a woman acquires the domicile of her husband by marriage if she did not have the same domicile before marriage.
  • Conclusion: The court ruled that the petitioner, as an alien male who married a female from Pakistan, was not entitled to acquire Pakistani citizenship under Section 10 of the Citizenship Act. The provision in question was not discriminatory, and it was enacted to protect the rights of alien women married to Pakistani men, based on the principles of Private International Law and the preferred position of women in Article 25 of the Constitution.

Federal Shariat Court in Suo Moto case No.1/K of 2006 (GENDER EQUALITY) [PLD 2008 Federal Shariat Court 1]

Case Note – Suo Motu Case No. 1/K of 2006 (Gender Equality) 

Case Details:

  • Before Haziqul Khairi, C.J., Dr. Fida Muhammad Khan, and Salahuddin Mirza, JJ
  • Suo Motu Case No. 1/K of 2006
  • Decided on 12th December 2007
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The Federal Shariat Court, exercising its powers under Article 203-D of the Constitution, took suo motu notice of a news item highlighting the discriminatory provision in the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951. Under Section 10 of the said Act, a married Pakistani woman was denied the right to obtain Pakistan’s citizenship for her foreign husband, while a married man was entitled to obtain Pakistan citizenship for his foreign wife.


The main issue before the court was the discriminatory nature of Section 10 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, which denied a married Pakistani woman the right to acquire Pakistani citizenship for her foreign husband.

Court’s Decision:

The Federal Shariat Court found that Section 10 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, was discriminatory, negated gender equality, and violated Articles 2-A and 25 of the Constitution. It also noted that the provision was against Pakistan’s international commitments and, most importantly, was repugnant to the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah.

The court emphasized that while Section 10 expressly denied citizenship to the foreign husband of a Pakistani woman, neither she nor he was entitled to apply for it. Granting nationality remained within the government’s discretion, and it could refuse it for reasons of national security or public interest.

In the exercise of its powers under clause (3)(a) of Article 203-D of the Constitution, the Federal Shariat Court directed the President of Pakistan to take appropriate steps for amending Section 10(2) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, and other relevant provisions of the Act. The amendment was to ensure that Pakistani nationality could be granted to foreign husbands married to Pakistani women, subject to an appropriate procedure.

Precedents Cited:

The court referred to several precedents, including Muhammad Ramzan Qureshi v. Federal Government and others, Pakistan v. Public at Large, Mst. Kaneez Fatima v. Wali Muhammad and another, Hafiz Abdul Waheed v. Mrs. Asma Jehangir and another, Hazoor Bakhsh v. Federation of Pakistan, I.A. Sharwani v. Government of Pakistan, and Pakistan Muslim League(Q) v. Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. These cases supported the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination in various contexts.

Latest Position on the Status of Aliens in Pakistan can be gleaned from the case of Mst. Rukhsana Bibi vs. Government of Pakistan  (2016  PLD  857 )

Case Details:

  • Lahore High Court, Multan Bench, Multan
  • Writ Petition No. 5939 of 2006
  • Mst. Rukhsana Bibi, etc. (Petitioners) vs. Government of Pakistan, etc. (Respondents)
  • Date of hearing: 20.04.2016

In this Constitutional Petition filed under Article 199 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the petitioners sought a direction from the respondents to prevent discrimination and grant citizenship to petitioner No. 2 (husband of petitioner No. 1), enabling them to live together in Pakistan. They further sought the registration of petitioner No. 2 as a citizen of Pakistan and restraint on the respondents from extraditing him from Pakistan.


Mst. Rukhsana (petitioner No. 1) is a serving SST teacher in the Education Department. Her husband passed away in 2002, and they had no children. Petitioner No. 2 is an Indian national residing in Multan, who came to Pakistan in 2003 with his son and mother. Petitioner No. 1 got married to petitioner No. 2 on 16.02.2004, and they have a daughter born in Pakistan. Petitioner No. 2 applied for Pakistani citizenship, but the authorities asked him to deposit a significant sum of money for processing the application. His visa was not extended after 18.12.2006, leading to the filing of this writ petition.

Petitioner’s Argument:

The petitioners’ counsel argued that the State of Pakistan is obliged to amend all discriminatory provisions in the law, particularly Section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act, 1951. He contended that denial of citizenship to petitioner No. 2 was discriminatory and violated Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law. He referred to previous court judgments and sought relief for the petitioners.

Respondent’s Argument:

The Standing Counsel for the respondents argued that petitioner No. 2, being an alien male, lacked locus standi to file the writ petition. He also claimed that the respondents’ actions were not discriminatory but in accordance with the prevailing law. He stated that petitioner No. 2’s stay in Pakistan was illegal, as his visa had expired. He suggested that petitioner No. 2 could initiate the process to obtain Pakistani citizenship by fulfilling the necessary requirements.

Court’s Decision:

The court noted that petitioner No. 2, being an alien male, could not invoke the constitutional jurisdiction of the court, and thus, his part of the writ petition was dismissed as not maintainable. However, the court examined petitioner No. 1’s case in light of human rights and discrimination aspects.

The court discussed Section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act, 1951, which allowed alien women married to Pakistani men to acquire Pakistani nationality. However, it did not grant the same right to alien men married to Pakistani women. The court referred to a judgment by the Federal Shariat Court, which held that the section was discriminatory and violated Article 2(a) and 25 of the Constitution and Islamic principles.

The court also cited various international conventions and human rights declarations that emphasized equality and non-discrimination. It concluded that denying citizenship to petitioner No. 2 on the basis of gender was arbitrary and not founded on any rational basis, violating Article 25 of the Constitution.

The court allowed the writ petition and directed the respondents to grant citizenship to petitioner No. 2, following the necessary procedure, as denying this right under Section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act was declared discriminatory and in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution.

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