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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Wednesday, directed the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to restore citizenship of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)’s former senator Maulana Hafiz Hamdullah.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah, on Wednesday, announced the verdict in the petition, filed by the JUI-F leader against the cancellation of his citizenship.

It also declared the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra)’s order to restrain TV channels from “inviting and projecting the petitioner in the programs/talk shows, news, etc” as illegal.

“The Authority is directed to restore the CNICs of the petitioners forthwith. Needless to mention that the competent authority under the Citizenship Act, read with the Citizenship Rules, would not be precluded from proceeding in the prescribed manner in case it is of the opinion that, based on credible material, a prima facie case is made out to deprive a person of citizenship or that the latter was not eligible for it,” said the verdict.

About the Pemra’s order, the judgment said that it was an obvious misuse of authority vested under the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002.

“It was issued in derogation of the rights guaranteed under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution. The said statute and the rules/regulations made thereunder do not vest absolute and unbridled powers in Pemra to regulate the content or participants of a programme,” wrote the IHC CJ.

He continued that there was nothing on record to justify passing of the impugned order by the Pemra.

“The order, dated 26-10-2019, is declared to have been issued illegally and wholly without authority and jurisdiction,” said the verdict.

The judgment observed that the admitted facts are that the petitioners were duly registered by the Authority under the Ordinance of 2000 after they had applied for issuance of their respective CNICs in accordance with the prescribed procedure and fulfilling the mandatory requirements.

The registration was followed by the issuance of the respective CNICs by acknowledging the crucial fact that the petitioners were citizens of Pakistan.

The Court stated that it is not the case of the Authority that the petitioners have acquired citizenship of another sovereign state or that the authority competent under the relevant law had revoked, withdrawn or cancelled their citizenship.

It has also not been alleged that the petitioners had given false information regarding their birth in Pakistan when they had applied for the issuance of the CNICs.

“There is nothing on record to show how the Authority or the concerned intelligence agency had concluded that the petitioners were not citizens of Pakistan. As would be discussed later in more detail, the Authority nor the intelligence agencies are competent to determine the question of citizenship of a person,” added the court.

It also said that the suspension of a duly issued CNIC or cancellation thereof has a profound and grave consequence because it virtually brings the life of an affected person to a halt and the latter, by implication, is denied the exercise of fundamental rights guaranteed under the 1973 Constitution.

The bench further said, “Such a person loses the right of employment, access to his or her own bank accounts, the right to engage in trade, business or profession. Moreover, access to education, health, etc is denied. The family members are also equally affected. In a nut shell, the right to life guaranteed under Article 9 is virtually taken away.”

It observed that this phenomenon of blocking or cancelling the CNICs of citizens by the Authority in a perfunctory and arbitrary manner has remained prevalent for a long time because similar grievances have been frequently agitated before this Court.

The verdict observed, “This Court has consistently observed that the Authority was bereft of jurisdiction to adjudicate upon a question which involves the determination of the status of a person as a citizen of Pakistan and that too, on the basis of reports received from intelligence agencies which are under the control of the Government.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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