The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has announced the resumption of registration for transgender people, reversing a three-month halt.
The decision was made in a notification issued on Monday. The notification withdraws Nadra’s earlier order to halt the registration process, which was issued in response to a verdict by the Federal Shariat Court (FSC).
Rida Qazi, Nadra Public Engagement Director, stated that the printing of ‘X’ National Identity Cards (NICs) for transgender individuals will now resume following instructions from the authority. She said that as the matter is now in the apex court the authority was constitutionally obligated to print ‘X’ NICs for transgender persons based on recommendations from its external legal advice wing.
Nayyab Ali, the director of Transgender Rights Consultants Pakistan, applauded Nadra’s decision and congratulated the transgender activist community for their unwavering efforts.
The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) also commended Nadra for its “prompt response” in reactivating the NIC registration process for ‘X’ gender category.
NCHR chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha emphasized the importance of a valid NIC in ensuring the provision of various rights, particularly for marginalized communities in Pakistan.
The FSC’s ruling in May 2023, which went against the provisions of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018, led to Nadra halting the ‘X’ NIC registration for transgender individuals.
However, this decision faced opposition from the legal community, civil society, and human rights activists.
In response, Secretary General of the PPP Farhatullah Babar challenged the FSC verdict in the Shariat appellate bench of the Supreme Court in July.
Considered a landmark law, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, enacted by the National Assembly in 2018, was intended to provide legal recognition and protection to transgender individuals and punish discrimination against them in various domains of life.
In September 2022, the FSC heard petitions challenging the legislation, with Mushtaq Ahmed, a Senator from Jamaat-e-Islami, and Orya Maqbool Jan, a TV anchor, joining transgender individuals Almaas Boby and Bubbly Malik as parties in the case.
Simultaneously, the Intersex Persons (Protection of Rights) (Amendment) Bill, 2022, sought amendments to the law, specifically targeting sections that were deemed contrary to Islamic and constitutional principles.
In May 2023, the FSC struck down the law and ruled that certain sections, including the definition of ‘gender identity’ and ‘transgender person’, were against Sharia law. The FSC also declared sections related to the recognition of transgender identity and inheritance rights to be in violation of Sharia law.