Citizenship of Pakistan for Foreign Spouses

Citizenship of Pakistan for Foreign Spouses: Navigating Legal Terrain


The issue of granting Pakistani citizenship to foreign spouses has become a focal point in legal discussions, marked by recent judgments that shed light on the complexities surrounding this matter. This article endeavors to provide a comprehensive legal exploration of the topic, analyzing recent cases, the broader legal framework, and the procedural aspects involved in acquiring citizenship for foreign spouses in Pakistan.

Legal Landscape:

1. Constitutional Provisions:

Pakistan’s Constitution, adopted in 1973, lays the foundation for citizenship laws. The principle of equality before the law, as enshrined in Article 25, serves as a cornerstone in evaluating the constitutionality of citizenship-related statutes. Recent judicial pronouncements have brought attention to the need for constitutional alignment with international norms.

2. Citizenship Act, 1951:

The Citizenship Act, 1951, governs the acquisition and loss of Pakistani citizenship. Section 10(2) of the Act has been a focal point of legal scrutiny. It delineates different criteria for male and female foreign spouses seeking Pakistani citizenship, leading to allegations of gender-based discrimination.

Recent Judicial Developments:

1. Mst. Rukhsana Bibi and others v. Government of Pakistan (2017):

The Lahore High Court’s judgment in this case addressed the discriminatory nature of Section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act. The court declared the provision as violative of Article 25 of the Constitution, emphasizing the right of foreign spouses to be treated equally regardless of gender. This landmark decision underscores the judiciary’s commitment to eradicating gender-based disparities in citizenship matters. (PLJ 2017 Lahore 14)

2. Suo Moto Case No. 1/K of 2006 (Gender Equality):

The Federal Shariat Court’s decision in this case challenged the discriminatory application of Section 10(2) of the Citizenship Act. The court emphasized the need for legislative amendments to ensure gender equality in the acquisition of Pakistani citizenship by foreign spouses. This precedent adds weight to the call for legal reforms. (PLD 2008 Federal Shariat Court 1)

3. I.A. Sharwani and others v. Government of Pakistan (1991):

This Supreme Court decision interpreted Article 25 of the Constitution, establishing the principles of equal protection of the law. It emphasized that persons similarly situated should be treated alike, laying the groundwork for future discussions on gender equality in citizenship matters.

(1991 SCMR 1041)

 4. Secretary Economic Affairs Division, Islamabad v. Anwar-ul-Haq Ahmed and others (2013):

In this Supreme Court judgment, principles related to equal protection of the law were reinforced. The court emphasized that reasonable classification is permissible but must be founded on a reasonable basis, setting standards for evaluating the constitutionality of citizenship laws.

(2013 SCMR 1687)

Procedural Aspects:

1. Citizenship Application:

Foreign spouses seeking Pakistani citizenship typically initiate the process by submitting a formal application to the relevant authorities. The application may require details about the marriage, background information, and reasons for seeking citizenship.

2. Documentation:

Applicants are usually required to submit a set of documents, including marriage certificates, passports, proof of residence, and any other documents deemed necessary by the authorities. These documents help establish the legitimacy of the marital relationship and the eligibility for citizenship.

3. Application Review:

Upon submission, the authorities review the application and supporting documents. This involves verifying the authenticity of the information provided and ensuring that the applicant meets the criteria outlined in the relevant laws.

4. Fee Payment:

In some cases, applicants may be required to pay processing fees. The fee structure is determined by the relevant authorities and is subject to change. The payment is often a prerequisite for the application to be considered.

5. Oath of Allegiance:

If the application is approved, the foreign spouse may be required to take an oath of allegiance to Pakistan. This formalizes the commitment to abide by the laws and principles of the country.

6. Citizenship Ceremony:

Successful applicants may be invited to a citizenship ceremony, where they officially receive their Pakistani citizenship certificate. This ceremony may include the administration of the oath of allegiance in a formal setting.

Legal Implications:

1. Gender Equality:

Recent judgments, including those by the Lahore High Court and the Federal Shariat Court, highlight the imperative of ensuring gender equality in citizenship laws. The principles established in these cases have set a strong foundation for challenging discriminatory provisions.

2. International Commitments:

Pakistan’s commitment to international conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, accentuates the need for aligning national laws with global standards. Ensuring equal rights for foreign spouses, irrespective of gender, is in harmony with these commitments.

Moving Forward:

1. Legislative Reforms:

The recent judicial discourse calls for a critical review of existing citizenship laws. Legislative amendments that address gender-based disparities and ensure equal treatment for foreign spouses are essential to harmonize national statutes with constitutional principles and international commitments.

2. Inclusivity and Human Rights:

Recognizing the right of foreign spouses to choose their partners without facing discriminatory legal barriers is a vital step toward building an inclusive and rights-centric legal framework. Upholding human rights principles, including the right to family life, is imperative in shaping legal discourse around citizenship.


The legal landscape concerning the citizenship of Pakistan for foreign spouses is evolving, guided by recent judicial pronouncements. The imperative of aligning national laws with constitutional guarantees and international commitments is evident. As Pakistan moves forward, fostering inclusivity, recognizing the equal rights of foreign spouses, and understanding the procedural aspects stand as essential pillars in shaping a legal framework that reflects contemporary principles of justice and human rights. 

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