IHC says NADRA cannot cancel citizenship based on intelligence reports

JUI-F leader Hafiz Hamdullah. — File photo

The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) cannot revoke the citizenship of any citizen based on a mere intelligence report, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ruled.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Saturday issued a detailed 29-page judgment in JUI-F leader Hafiz Hamdullah’s case.

NADRA, on October 11, 2019, had declared Hamdullah an “alien” and revoked his citizenship.

Subsequently, on May 19 this year, the IHC declared NADRA’s action to block former senator Hamadullah’s CNIC as illegal and ordered it to restore his national identity card.

The detailed decision said NADRA does not have the power to deprive anyone of citizenship as its job is only to register and maintain the national database.

“NADRA itself cannot block, suspend or revoke the identity card,” IHC Chief Justice Minallah said.

The court said only relevant authorities, and not NADRA, can take up the matter of revoking a person’s citizenship — and even they need a judicial order to finalise a decision.

The court questioned how, when Hamdullah was born in Pakistan and his son served in the army, had NADRA concluded that they were not Pakistani citizens.

“Citizenship is a fundamental right without which no political or social rights can be obtained; a Pakistani born individual legally becomes a Pakistani citizen automatically,” the court remarked.

The court also ordered the restoration of Abdul Rahim, Naik Mohammad, Mohammad Hanif, and others’ identity cards.

“There are 35 countries in the world, including Pakistan, where a citizen has the right to get citizenship at birth. Citizenship is a right according to the law, and it is not the prerogative of the state.”

In the past, some people who were ineligible to obtain ID cards had gotten them and the reason for this was poor policies, the court said.

“It is the responsibility of the lawmakers [to come up with the right policies]. NADRA has a constitutional responsibility to act in accordance with the law and cannot go beyond it,” it added.

On May 19, while the court announced its decision, it said asked NADRA official present, to provide the details of other cases in which it had taken the same decisions on the basis of such intelligence reports.

Expressing annoyance, the chief justice asked the NADRA officials whether they know what the results of blocking someone’s CNIC for even one day could be.

Justice Minallah also asked under what law NADRA had established district committees. After this, the court dismissed NDARA’s decision to block Hamdullah’s CNIC.

IHC suspends NADRA’s decision

On October 29, 2019, the IHC had suspended NADRA’s decision to cancel the citizenship of JUI-F leader Hamdullah.

NADRA had cancelled Hamdullah’s citizenship and labelled the politician an ‘alien’ on October 11, 2019 .

This came to light when in the same period Pakistan Electonic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had issued a notice to TV channels, forbidding them from inviting the JUI-F leader on talk shows.

The court, during the same hearing, also suspended PEMRA’s notification forbidding TV channels from inviting him.

Maulana Hamdullah had been elected as an MPA from Balochistan in the 2002 general elections on a Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal ticket and served as provisional health minister from 2002 till 2005.

In March 2012, he was elected to the Senate on a general seat as a JUI-F candidate. His tenure ended in March 2018.

— Additional input from APP

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