Islamabad: Pakistani authorities have assured the Supreme Court that computerised national identity cards will soon be issued to all members of the minority Hindu community, including married women who were facing problems in obtaining the cards.
Following the assurance, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry yesterday disposed of a suo moto case it had taken up on problems faced by married Hindu women in obtaining CNICs.
In the absence of any law to register Hindu marriages, women are unable to provide proof of their marriage and have been denied the identity cards.
The legal director of the National Database and Registration Authority, which issues the identity cards, told the court that a meeting of the NADRA Board Authority to be held soon would consider a proposal for amending regulations governing the issuance of CNICs to members of the Hindu community.
At the last hearing on March 30, the apex court was told that a circular had been issued by NADRA conveying instructions to officials to issue CNICs on the production of an affidavit by married Hindu women.
However, the court observed that such a circular would have no legal backing and it was necessary that either some amendments should be made or a regulation should be issued by the NADRA chairman to cover the issuance of identity cards to Hindu citizens.
At Tuesday's hearing, the court directed NADRA to amend its regulations in a way that the rights of Hindus are protected. The NADRA chairman was ordered to submit a copy of the amendments to the court’s registrar.
The amendments should be widely circulated through newspapers for public awareness, the bench said. The Apex Court had taken up the issue after a 2009 article in a newspaper described the problems faced by Prem Sari Mai, a Hindu woman from Rahim Yar Khan who was unable to obtain a passport to visit India as she did not have an identity card.
The article described other problems faced by Hindus in acquiring CNICs and passports because couples cannot get their marriages registered under the existing laws.
The article said Prem Sari, who wanted to visit India to participate in a religious festival, had to pay a huge bribe to get a passport. When she submitted her application to NADRA, Prem Sari was shocked to learn that authorities were not treating her as a married woman and that she faced charges of having illicit relations with a man.
Hindus make up less than five percent of Pakistan's total population of about 180 million. According to one estimate, there are around three million Hindus in the country.