• Bill moved by PTI seeks amendments to definitions of ‘gender expression’, ‘gender identity’
• Rabbani proposes talks between political stakeholders, intra-institutional discourse

ISLAMABAD: Amidst growing controversy over the transgender rights law, a bill seeking amendments to the 2018 legislation landed in the upper house of parliament.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) (Amendment) Act 2022 — moved by Senator Fawzia Arshad of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — sought amendments to the definitions of “gender expression” and “gender identity”. It also proposes to remove sub-section 4 of Section 3 that says “a transgender person already issued [an identity card] by Nadra shall be allowed to change the name and gender according to his or her self perceived identity on the CNIC, CRC, driving license and passport in accordance with the provisions of the NADRA Ordinance, 2000”.

The bill also sought amendments to sections 7 and 8 related to share in inheritance and right to education.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill stated that the legislative proposal had been brought to fill the gaps and make the law “more effective and worthwhile” for reducing suffering, improving the standard of living and reforming the most deprived segment of society.

The objective of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Right) Act 2018 was to ensure provision of rights to own and inherit property, acquire education and employment, vote for candidates of their choice, hold public office, assemble peacefully for any lawful purpose, access to public places and fulfillment of fundamental rights for the transgender people of Pakistan.

The bill further claimed various lacunae and loopholes were observed in the law that needed to be addressed to transfer its benefits to the transgender community on priority. Moreover, it stated, the law did not conform to the principles and rules developed under Shariah for dealing with issues related to transgender persons in a Muslim society.

Intra-institutional dialogue

Also in the Senate on Monday, PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani stressed the need to address the fault lines that threatened the state, including violation of the principle of trichotomy of powers, and called for a multi-national dialogue and evolving another charter of democracy.

Speaking in the upper house, the former Senate chairman suggested in the first phase, there should be a dialogue between political stakeholders followed by an intra-institutional discourse involving parliament, executive and judiciary. “The end result has to be one in which benefits in terms of protection of rights and rule of law flow to the people of Pakistan,” he remarked.

He stressed that supremacy of parliament should be recognised, powers of the Senate enhanced, all foreign agreements ratified by parliament, and a parliamentary committee on intelligence services formed to monitor the performance of agencies.

The veteran politician also underlined the need for constitutional amendments to reform electoral laws, strengthen the federal, parliamentary and democratic system and demilitarise civil institutions. He noted that as a consequence of the proposed ‘Charter of Democracy II’, a ‘charter of economy’ could be possible too.

In light of the second ‘charter of democracy’, intra-institutional dialogue was required on the plank that all institutions must discharge their duties, obligations and functions within the ambit prescribed under the Constitution, respecting the independence of each institution. The military bureaucracy and intelligence agencies, under the Rules of Business of the federal government, were under the executive, therefore, the initial dialogue should be based on the premise of non-interference in politics and adherence to the role prescribed under the rules, law and the Constitution, he suggested.

“The vehicle for the initiation of dialogue is parliament. The Senate’s Committee of the Whole provides the ideal forum for such a dialogue,” he noted, adding the initiative for both phases of the dialogue should be taken by parliament.

In terms of a political dialogue, the Committee of the Whole should invite all political parties with representation in parliament regardless of their numerical strength. In terms of the institutional dialogue, initially one institution should be invited and a report prepared on such a sitting. He then proposed exchange of reports between the institutions and a combined sitting of all institutions to finalise the recommendations of the committee later.

Mr Rabbani also proposed establishment of a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ “not to fix or carry out a trial for criminal liability. But… to heal the wounds of a nation where the wrong has to be identified and acknowledged by the state, be it against an individual, group, sect or nationality”.

Meanwhile, the house also passed a bill, with an amendment moved by its former chairman and PPP lawmaker Farooq H Naek. The bill sought to amend the Chairman and Speaker (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) Act 1975 envisaging according to the deputy head of the state of a host country’s protocol to the Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker while on a foreign visit.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2022

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