Foreign Spouses in a bind after POC ban
By Danish Hussain
Over 3,500 foreign nationals married to Pakistanis have been pushed between a rock and a hard place because of the interior ministry’s decision to ban issuance of the relevant Pakistani identity document – Pakistan Origin Card – to them.
Bank accounts and properties in Pakistan of those affected by the government’s move could potentially be frozen or at the very least become inaccessible.
Neither the ministry has been admitting new POC applications which, according to Nadra’s website, have surged to 15,673, nor renewing the expired ones.
The ministry’s website has been running a one-line message: “As per directions of the Ministry of Interior, issuance of POC on the basis of spouse is no longer available”.
The facility has been withdrawn on the recommendations of sensitive security agencies.
The ban has made the lives of some 3,515 foreign spouses [holders of expired POCs] very difficult.
According to a document of the International Operations Department, the 3,515 foreign spouses hold moveable or immoveable properties in Pakistan and bank accounts under their names.
Due to the ban, they are now unable to sell their properties and operate bank accounts, and above all they have lost all the rights Pakistan guarantees to them under the POC.
As a result, Pakistan has been denying them visa-free entry, indefinite stay in the country, exemption from foreigner registration requirements, permission to purchase or sell property and right to open and operate bank accounts.
In the document of the International Operations Department, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, now the Ministry of Interior has been told that these 3,515 foreign spouses are facing immense difficulties due to the expiry of their POCs and the question arises if they [holder of the expired POCs] can still hold their property and bank accounts under their names.