New Delhi: India on Thursday relaxed visa extension norms for a select category of Pakistan nationals, including Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities who have come to the country seeking Indian citizenship.
The other categories of Pakistanis for whom norms have been relaxed include women married to Indian nationals and staying in India, and Indian women married to Pakistani nationals but who have returned after their spouse's death or divorce, said the union home ministry.
Visa can also be extended in cases of extreme compassion, a home ministry statement said.
It, however, added that the relaxed visa extension rules will be applicable only for those who are already in India or likely to come here before the end of this year.
The statement said that all states and union territories have been asked not to insist upon validity of Pakistani passports, as per the latest statutory provisions notified by the ministry on May 15, 2010, under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
The statement said the decision has been taken after consultation with the ministry of external affairs and the ministry of law and justice.
"Accordingly, it has been decided to grant exemption to a select category of Pakistan nationals from the provisions of Rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920. An order to this effect has been notified on May 15, 2010," the statement said.
The ministry added that it is further contemplating to provide this facility to male Muslim citizens of India who migrated to Pakistan during partition leaving behind their family but came back on a valid Pakistani passport but could not get their passports renewed.
Pointing out that there are thousands of such people in Kerala, the home ministry statement said they were unable to get their passports renewed as the Pakistan High Commission refused to do so in the absence of a Computerized National Identity Card.
"Pakistan issues Computerized National identity Cards to their nationals and extends validity of passports in respect of only those nationals who possess the identity card," said the home ministry statement.
Some of such Pakistan nationals could not get their passports renewed because of sheer poverty, said the home ministry, adding that it has decided to examine the pleas of such people to extend their visa pending a decision on their pleas for Indian citizenship.