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June 19, 2018

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Special courts to safeguard transgenders’ rights: CJP

LAHORE: The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, on Monday said special courts would be created to safeguard rights of the transgender community.

The CJP was heading a two-member SC bench hearing a suo motu case about non-issuance of national identity cards to transgenders at the Supreme Court, Lahore Registry on the third day of Eidul Fitr. Justice Ijazul Ahsan was the other bench member. "Unless and until they are provided with the court's protection, their issues cannot be resolved," he remarked, adding any maltreatment or eve-teasing of the transgender community would not be tolerated. “The problems of the transgender community cannot be solved until they are provided legal protection,” the CJP noted. The CJP took notice of the issue during a visit to Foundation House, Lahore where transgenders complained about non-issuance of CNICs.

The CJP ordered constitution of a special committee to ensure issuance of free Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) to transgenders and sought recommendations for welfare of the beleaguered community within three weeks. During the hearing, the CJP remarked that CNICs should be issued through a one-window operation, adding: “I myself will monitor the entire process.”

The CJP said: “All those transgender persons who have CNICs should be allowed to exercise their right to vote. The Khwaja Saras (transgenders) are an important part of our society.

“We don’t know about the government but we will try to provide all legal provisions to them,” he added. “Whether the state takes any steps or not, the judiciary will do everything in its capacity to ensure that the transgender community gets its due rights. As society, we should be ashamed of being cruel and inconsiderate towards them,” the CJP remarked.

The court sought recommendations from the committee, comprising Akhuwat Foundation Chairman Dr Amjad Saqib, foundation's president Professor Humayun Ehsan and Punjab chief secretary and advocate general. Dr Amjad presented the recommendations. Dr Amjad recommended that the committees should be formed on a provincial as well as district levels.

He suggested that every province’s committee should be headed by the provincial chief secretary and include members from the Social Welfare Department, Baitul Mal, Women’s Welfare, Home Department, Punjab Social Protection Department and the Health Department. At the district level, Dr Saqib advised that committees should be led by the deputy commissioner, adding the committees should also have representatives from the bar associations.

He also suggested restraining the use of words or phrases aimed at ridiculing the transgender community.

The CJP observed that the court had previously directed the use of the word “Masihi” to replace the previously coined term “Esai” while referring to members of the Christian community and suggested that a similar action could be taken for the transgender community whereby they are prevented from being the subject of mockery. “It is our duty to provide all minorities with protection and dignity,” he acknowledged, adding the court would ensure implementation of Dr Amjad’s recommendations.

The chief secretary assured that identity cards would be provided to transgenders free of cost within seven days. He informed the court that committees have been formed at provincial and district levels. The CJP instructed authorities to conduct workshops to raise awareness about the issues faced by the community.

In another suo moto case, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar took notice of the construction of marriage halls within the University of Punjab. The top judge sought a reply over the construction work from the Lahore Development Authority. “On what basis has commercial activity been allowed within the university,” Chief Justice Saqib Nisar questioned. The bench also ordered submission of more details about the issue from the Punjab government. Earlier, On April 21, the transfer of the land of the University of Punja to the provincial government was suspended by the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry.

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