In blow to Imran Khan govt, IHC orders Pak's NADRA to restore opposition leader's national identity card

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Representative Image

Islamabad [Pakistan], May 21 (ANI): In a blow to the Pakistan government, the Islamabad High Court has ordered the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to restore the national identity card of opposition leader Hafiz Hamdullah, ruling that the authority acted in an "arbitrary and reckless" manner without considering the profound consequences of such a decision.

Dawn reported that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader and former Senator Hamdullah had lost his citizenship in October 2019 when Nadra declared him an "alien". He filed a petition in the IHC challenging NADRA's notification of revoking his citizenship.

NADRA had written in its reply that Hamdullah was not a Pakistani national, citing intelligence reports. The intelligence agencies had claimed that Hamdullah's credentials were also fake and subsequently his computerised national identity card (CNIC) had been cancelled, said NADRA.

However, the IHC ruled that NADRA had no jurisdiction to initiate proceedings on the basis of reports received from intelligence agencies regarding the status of citizenship of a person who has been registered as a citizen.

"The [agencies], at best, can report a case of alleged fraud, misrepresentation or concealment of material facts along with the relevant material to the competent authority empowered under the Citizenship Act," the judgement authored by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah said.

After allowing Hamdullah's petition, the IHC has also directed the database authority to restore the CNICs of other petitioners who were deprived of their respective citizenships on similar grounds by the authority, reported Dawn.

The judgement stated that Hamdullah was born in a remote town of the Province of Balochistan "and this crucial fact has not been denied" by the government.

"He and his father have lived in Pakistan all their lives. They own properties and the petitioner has held various public offices as an elected representative," the order said, noting that Hamdullah was accepted as a commissioned officer in the armed forces of Pakistan.

"There could not have been a more glaring example of arbitrary and reckless action by [Nadra] of purportedly depriving a registered citizen of his citizenship and that too when [it] had no jurisdiction under the Ordinance of 2000 to do so," the court's judgement said.

The IHC mentioned that the authorities had not alleged that the petitioners had given false information regarding their birth in Pakistan when they had applied for their CNICs. "There is nothing on record to show how [Nadra] or the concerned intelligence agency had concluded that the petitioners were not citizens of Pakistan," it said.

The court further said that the suspension of a duly issued CNIC has a profound and grave consequence as it virtually brings the life of an affected person to a halt. Such a person loses the right of employment, access to his or her own bank accounts, and the right to engage in trade, business or profession, among other rights.

It further said the petitioners were deprived of being citizens of Pakistan in a perfunctory manner merely because an intelligence agency had reported so, Dawn reported.

"Was [Nadra] vested with jurisdiction to initiate proceedings regarding 'eligibility' stemming from 'citizenship'? The answer is an emphatic NO," the order said, saying the authority had exposed itself to be sued for claim of damages for "the devastating consequences and unimaginable mental agony" suffered by the petitioners.

Furthermore, the IHC also ruled that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's (Pemra) order restraining TV channels from "inviting and projecting" Hamdullah in programmes/talk shows was "an obvious misuse of authority".

"There is nothing on record to justify passing of the impugned order by Pemra. The order, dated 26-10-2019, is declared to have been issued illegally and wholly without authority and jurisdiction," the judgement stated.

The directive had come at a time when the JUI-F's anti-government Azadi March was about to start, Dawn reported. (ANI)