Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday ordered the formation of a committee to provide free computerised national identity cards (CNICs) to transgenders, seeking the body's recommendations for the community's welfare within three weeks.
The order was issued during a follow-up hearing of a suo motu case regarding non-issuance of identity cards to transgenders, held at the Supreme Court's Lahore registry. Justice Ijazul Ahsan was the other member of the two-judge bench.
To ensure hassle-free provision of CNICs, Justice Nisar ordered that the cards be issued through a 'one-window' facility.
"The Supreme Court will monitor all steps online and I will personally supervise the matter," CJP Nisar cautioned during the hearing.
The CJP revealed that special courts will be created to safeguard the rights of the transgender community.
"Unless and until they are provided with the court's protection, their issues can not be resolved," he remarked, adding that any sort of maltreatment directed towards them will not be tolerated.
He observed that those transgenders already possessing identity cards should be given the right to vote.
Terming transgenders as important members of the society, the CJP said that whether or not the government takes the necessary measures to provide them with the rights owed to every citizen, the courts will do whatever is in their capacity to ensure they are provided justice.
"We will create such a system for them whereby their rights are provided to them at their doorstep," he said.
"We, as a society, should be ashamed of ourselves for the way we treat the transgenders," he lamented while referring to the maltreatment often meted out to the community.
Formation of committees
The court sought recommendations from the committee, which included Akhuwat Foundation Chairman Dr Amjad Saqib, the foundation's president Professor Humayun Ehsan, and the Punjab chief secretary and advocate general. Dr Amjad presented the body's recommendations before the court after an hour of deliberations between the members.
He said that committees should be formed on a provincial level for the transgenders' welfare, to which the CJP responded by saying, "Tell us what you have planned. We will see that it is implemented."
Dr Amjad proposed that every province's committee should be headed by the provincial chief secretary and should include members from the social welfare department, Baitul Mal, women's welfare, home department, Punjab social protection department and the health department.
He further advised that committees at the district level should also be created which should be led by the deputy commissioner. The committees should also have representatives from the bar association, he added.
He said concrete steps should be taken to prevent the use of words or phrases which are aimed at ridiculing the transgender community.
The CJP observed that the court had previously directed the use of the word "maseehi" to replace the previously coined term "esai" when referring to members of the Christian community and suggested that a similar action could be taken for the transgender community whereby they are prevented from being the subject of mockery.
"It is our duty to provide all minorities with protection and dignity," he acknowledged, adding that the court will ensure implementation of Dr Amjad's recommendations.
The chief secretary recommended that identity cards be provided to transgenders free of cost within seven days. He informed the court that 40 committees have been formed for the purpose at provincial and district levels.
The CJP instructed authorities to conduct workshops to raise awareness and shed light on the issues faced by the community. He said that the committee will be provided the platform of law and justice commission to organise the workshops.
He also ordered the formation of a separate 10-member nationwide committee which will conduct informative seminars for the transgenders.