Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Pakistani nationality law

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Pakistani nationality law

The Pakistani nationality law governs citizenship of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The principal legislation determining nationality, the Pakistan Citizenship Act, was passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 13 April 1951. Since Cambodia changed its laws, Pakistan is the only country in the Old World with unconditional jus soli citizenship rights.



Before the creation of Pakistan, its territories were part of the British Indian Empire (which included modern-day India, Bangladesh and Burma) and its people were British subjects. Pakistan was founded on 14 August 1947 as a state for Muslims and held the status of a Dominion in the British Commonwealth; it included modern-day Bangladesh, which was known as East Bengal and East Pakistan and became independent from Pakistan in 1971. Upon independence from British colonial rule, several millions of Muslims emigrated to Pakistan from India, and several millions of Hindus and Sikhs who had been residing in what became Pakistan emigrated to India, raising a number of citizenship issues.

Pakistani Citizenship Act 1951

The Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951 was enacted on 13 April 1951; stating the purpose of it is "to make provision for citizenship of Pakistan". The Act has been amended several times, the last occurring in 2000. The Act is divided into 23 sections, each one outlining a different provision of citizenship, of which the most significant are:

Dual nationality

Since independence, the growth of expatriate Pakistani communities in the Middle East, Europe and North America has led to several changes in Pakistani nationality law. Dual citizenship is allowed in certain specified circumstances:

  • where the citizen who is acquiring the second nationality is under the age of 21
  • where the citizen is also a British citizen
  • where citizens have acquired United States or Swedish nationality
  • Pakistanis with dual citizenship are forbidden to run for public office, sit in the assemblies, contest elections or join the Pakistani military. On 20 September 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified eleven lawmakers including Interior Minister Rehman Malik for failing to disclose their dual nationalities upon taking office. The proposed 21st amendment to the Pakistani constitution would have allowed dual citizens to hold public office and contest elections, but the amendment never passed. On 16 December 2013, The Senate of Pakistan unanimously passed "The Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, 2013", aimed at barring the civil servants of BPS-20 and above to hold a dual nationality, the bill will then be debated in the Lower House having passed from there it would then be implemented as an Act after the President of Pakistan signs it.

    Controversial issues

    Both Pakistan and India law claim to the disputed region of Kashmir, which has been the subject of numerous wars between the two countries. The Pakistani Citizenship Act of 1951 allowed persons who were subjects of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to travel under a Pakistani passport and be considered a citizen of Pakistan without prejudice.

    The independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 led to the abandonment in the Bengali-majority state of around half a million "stranded Pakistanis", who traced their ethno-linguistic heritage to the Bihar region. Despite official promises, Bangladesh has not accepted them nor does it recognise them as citizens. Conversely, a continuous migration of Bangladeshis between 1971 and 1995 led their population to cross the 1.6 million mark which was only 10,000 at the time of separation. These migrants are mostly illegal and are not given the citizenship as they migrated after the separation.

    For political and other reasons, the 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan are not given Pakistani nationality, most of whom were born inside Pakistan.

    Travel freedom

    In 2016, Pakistani citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 29 countries and territories, ranking the Pakistani passport 103rd in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index.


    Pakistani nationality law Wikipedia