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A welcome step

November 09, 2012

LIFE is hard enough for the average Pakistani, but for those unfortunate enough to belong to certain marginalised communities, the scale of the challenge is much more intense. Where religious minorities face the threat of violence, for others on the margins the hurdles are often placed by the government itself. It is encouraging, then, that in the recent past the way has been made smoother for members of two such communities. Last month, the Supreme Court reiterated during a ruling that transgender people are entitled to all the rights afforded to citizens by the constitution, and directed the police and provincial administrations to ensure that such people have no complaints. Last year, following an SC order, the National Database and Registration Authority fixed things at its end and created a third gender-related category for transgender applicants for the computerised national identity cards — the requirement for accessing practically everything. Now comes the news that Nadra has taken another laudable step: on Wednesday, it announced that henceforth it would issue CNICs to people with unknown parentage.

As matters stood earlier, children of unknown par-entage could not legally obtain B-Forms, which are the basis on which CNICs are issued after the age of 18. It cannot be ascertained exactly how many people will benefit, but the figure is bound to run into several thousands. The move is the result of a petition filed in the Supreme Court by Abdul Sattar Edhi in 2010, and Edhi Home alone says that some 15,000 babies have been left in its cradles — i.e. abandoned by their parents — over the past two decades. There are several other reasons, too, due to which children may not be aware of their parents’ names or not have proof of their parentage. This category includes runaways and street children amongst others. In the case of transgenders, there are in many cities entire localities of people who cannot access their most basic rights, including the right to vote or file a police complaint, because they lack a CNIC or have to resort to fraudulent means to obtain it. Nadra has taken a progressive step, and this must be appreciated.