In a significant development for transgender rights in Pakistan, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has resumed the registration of transgender individuals, almost three months after it was halted.
The suspension of the registration process came in the wake of a May 2023 ruling by the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) against certain provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018. This decision had led Nadra to halt the issuance of ‘X’ National Identity Cards (NICs) to transgender individuals. However, this move faced backlash from the legal community, civil society, and human rights activists.
In response to the FSC verdict, PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar had challenged it in the Shariat appellate bench of the Supreme Court in July.
Nadra‘s recent decision to resume registration for transgender persons comes after it issued a notification withdrawing its earlier order to halt registrations. Rida Qazi, Nadra’s Public Engagement Director, confirmed this development, noting that the authority had issued instructions to resume printing ‘X’ NICs for transgender individuals.
Qazi explained that while the process had been temporarily halted due to the FSC verdict, it has now resumed as the matter is in the apex court. She emphasized that Nadra was constitutionally bound to issue ‘X’ NICs for transgender persons based on the recommendation of its external legal advice wing.
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Nayyab Ali, director of Transgender Rights Consultants Pakistan, celebrated Nadra’s decision, acknowledging the tireless efforts of transgender activists in Pakistan.
The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) also appreciated Nadra for its decision and prompt response in reactivating the ‘X’ NIC registration process. NCHR chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha highlighted that many rights are linked to having a valid NIC.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was enacted in 2018 to provide legal recognition to transgender persons and combat discrimination against them. However, it faced legal challenges, leading to the FSC’s intervention.
In May 2023, the FSC declared certain sections of the act as against Sharia, including definitions related to ‘gender identity’ and ‘transgender person.’ It also ruled against sections concerning the recognition of identity and the right to inherit for transgender individuals.
This legal development prompted Nadra to temporarily halt registration, which has now been resumed following legal proceedings and consultations.