IT is bizarre that in a country where the constitution grants equality before law to all citizens irrespective of cast, colour or creed, Nadra should be discriminating against a religious minority. But this seems to be happening in Pakistan.
Take the case of Pram Sri Mai, a married Hindu woman, whose application for a computerised national identity card was turned down by the National Database and Registration Authority which even charged her with having an illicit relationship with a man and bearing illegitimate children. Had it not been for the timely intervention of the Supreme Court, Mai could perhaps have ended up in deep legal trouble. Perhaps Nadra’s position, though wholly unjustified, was based on the fact that nuptials in the Hindu community are not recorded at the time of marriage.
Mai is not the only Hindu woman who has faced problems getting a CNIC. This does not reflect well on the working of Nadra, nor on the status accorded to minorities in Pakistan. Nadra has generally performed well in issuing identity cards to millions of Pakistanis in a country that is largely illiterate and does not have a good track record of documenting events. But cases of malpractice, ineptitude and non-cooperation in Nadra – perhaps attributable to individuals as opposed to the organisation – have also come to light. The authority will have to streamline its working so that it is more helpful to applicants for CNICs when a blatant anomaly in the law is obvious. Pakistan’s policymakers are famous for framing rules that quite often lack logic and are occasionally discriminatory. Given our mindset, it is not strange that many of these rules actually operate against the minority in various walks of life. It is time the government addresses such laws when they come to light so that minorities receive justice that is seen to be done.