The National Identity Card (‘NIC’) is a crucial document in Pakistan. It is mandatory for, among other things: voting, banking, gas, electricity, water, SIM card and admission to colleges. Transgender persons have historically had a difficulty in obtaining the NIC under the gender they identify as. Issues also arose where transgender person did not know their parents, or have their own address to obtain an NIC.
In the landmark case of Dr Aslam Khaki vs. SSP Rawalpindi, the Supreme Court ordered that the third gender should be recognized. In Mian Aasia vs. Federation of Pakistan, the Lahore High Court allowed transgender persons to get NICs even if they do not know their biological family. In this context, when the Elections Act, 2017 was introduced, a special provision was made for transgender persons in section 48.
Section 48 places emphasis on taking ‘special measures’ to register transgender persons as voters. It also requires that these measures be coordinated with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) which makes NICs, to expedite the process of issuing them for transgender persons.
The section codifies the importance of ensuring transgender persons have the necessary documentation to avail of necessities and exercise their core civic rights. If the provision is enacted in spirit, it will be a progressive measure, fulfilling the constitutional mandate as laid down by the Supreme Court.
Read the Act here.