The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Womb of uncertainty
- Nationality of unborn child worries Indian in Pak

Islamabad, July 18: Divya Dayanandan — now Hafza Aman — is not sure if she would deliver her first baby, due in a month, as an Indian or a Pakistani national because 12 days are left for a court stay on her deportation from Pakistan to expire.

The 25-year-old doctor from Kerala and her Pakistani husband, Aman Khan Hoti, have been driven to despair in trying to get her Pakistani citizenship. The interior ministry has stonewalled all their efforts.

“My wife is going to deliver her first baby next month and who will be responsible if, God forbid, something goes wrong because of the continuous tension she is undergoing,” Aman told The Telegraph.

Divya and Aman met in Ukraine where both were studying medicine. Aman returned home to Mardan, 60 km north of Peshawar, without completing his degree. Divya became an MD and the two married a year ago after she embraced Islam and took the name of Hafza Aman.

Ministry officials have remained adamant in their refusal to grant Hafza nationality without citing any reason.

The interior division had asked Hafza to leave within her visa’s validity period, Aman said. The entry permit issued by the local authorities was extended three times, finally till March 7.

Almost round-the-clock surveillance by plain-clothes intelligence and security officials has turned their life into a nightmare, Aman said. “I feel embarrassed, especially when Hafza says she is being punished for embracing Islam and living with a Muslim husband in an Islamic country.”

The police, he alleged, were harassing his wife to leave the country despite being entitled to be a Pakistani citizen under relevant Islamic laws and the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951.

Hafza said she does not feel safe about going back to India and rejoining her family. “I am also very much concerned about the future and safety of my child.”

Even a Peshawar High Court order in her favour has fallen on the ministry’s deaf ears, putting the pregnant woman in a state of constant trauma.

The high court had not only recommended Pakistani nationality for Hafza but also stayed the deportation order (her visa had already expired) earlier this month. It instructed police in Mardan not to touch the pregnant woman.

Her lawyer was earlier quoted by Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper, as contending that “under Section 10 (2) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, a woman married to a citizen of Pakistan should be registered as a citizen of Pakistan, whether or not she had completed 21 years of age”.

The couple feels “we may have to go to a third country if the government does not withdraw the deportation order”.

Hafza said they feel insecure especially after the interior ministry ignored an official letter sent by North West Frontier Province chief minister Akram Durrani, asking it to treat the matter as a “special case”.

“I don’t know what we will do on expiry of the stay order (on July 30),” Aman said when asked if they would apply for a fresh directive.

People in Pakistan by and large sympathise with Hafza. They believe it is unfair to deny citizenship to a woman who has converted to Islam and left her country and parents for a Pakistani man.

“I don’t think this is fair…the ministry must cite reasons for not granting her citizenship,” said Zehra Ijaz, whose brother married an Indian girl three years ago and brought her to Pakistan.

“Hafza’s identity as an Indian woman is something which she left in her hometown in Kerala. Now she is a citizen of this country after duly marrying a Pakistani boy under Muslim family laws,” said Mumtaz Haider, a senior executive in an Islamabad-based multinational firm.

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