PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Wednesday sought reply from Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a writ petition of transgender persons, seeking directives for the commission to formulate a viable strategy to facilitate their participation in the upcoming general elections as voters and candidates.

The bench comprising Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Mohammad Ghazanfar Khan issued notices to ECP over the petition jointly filed by TransAction Alliance president Farzana Jan and general secretary Amanullah alias Arzu.

The petitioners have requested the court to direct the ECP to make the electoral process friendly and inclusive for the community. The respondents in the petition are the chief election commissioner and provincial election commissioner.

The petitioners prayed the court to direct ECP to create a column for transgender and intersex persons in the electoral nomination forms. They said it would help members of the transgender community to contest elections in an inclusive manner.

They said that ECP should be asked to specify polling stations for transgender persons. They said that they should be given priority in casting of votes at polling booths and shouldn’t be made to stand in queues.

Advocate Gul Rehman Mohmand appeared for the petitioners and stated that ECP should take effective measures to train polling staff on the challenges and unique needs faced by transgender community.

He requested the court to direct the provincial election commissioner to give special attention and consideration to the registration of the votes of transgender community.

Mr Mohmand stated that special strategy should be formulated to prevent bullying and harassment of transgender persons at polling booths on the day of polling.

He said that Nadra was issuing Computerised National Identity Cards to transgender persons with category ‘X’ and therefore, ECP should specify polling stations for transgender community to cast vote.

The counsel said that in 2009, the then chief justice had recognised transgender community and asked Nadra to issue CNICs to them. He added in light of that judgment, Nadra was issuing category ‘X’ identity cards to transgender persons.

He stated that the Supreme Court had ruled that the transgender persons were citizens of Pakistan and their right to life and dignity were protected in the Constitution and therefore, no discrimination should be done against them.

Mr Mohmand contended that the apex court had directed the federal and provincial governments to comply with its orders to ensure the political empowerment, right to education, right to health and decent livelihood opportunities and ensure their fundamental rights under Article 25 of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2018