As election fever rises in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, tens of thousands of people are clamoring to get their voices heard, to get their candidates elected. However, a marginalised segment of society still remains on the outside, looking in. These are members of the transgender community who have not yet been issued national identity cards.
“It seems like we exist just to bring a little life into the political gatherings of different candidates. We cannot vote, nor can we contest elections, unlike [transgenders] in Punjab and Karachi,” says Farzana, president of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shemale Association.
According to Farzana, more than 300 transgenders applied for CNICs in order to be able to participate in the polls, but not a single one has been issued a card as yet. Farzana herself is still waiting, despite having applied for a CNIC three months ago.
Nisha, another member of this community, questioned the logic behind holding back the cards.
“We would also like to bring change in the country, like the rest of the nation, but how can we do it if we cannot vote?” she asks. “We are fed up of visiting the NADRA office [in Hayatabad]. The officials tell us they have other work to do and tell us to come back some other day. I have been visiting the office for the past two months.”
Sanam, who shares a house with Farzana, has also been let down by NADRA officials repeatedly, even though she was given a token to enable her to collect her card..
Her resentment is fueled by the fact that transgender persons in Punjab have been issued cards. “People don’t consider us humans here [in K-P],” says Sanam.
Flanked by others from the community, Sanam says that if they get their ID cards and can get their votes registered, they will vote for Imran Khan.
“He has raised his voice for change, and this society is in dire need of change,” she says. “If we were issued CNICs on time, we would have chosen our own candidate.”
Farzana has appealed to the caretaker government and NADRA authorities to include their names in the voters’ lists, and to give them the opportunity to choose a candidate. If ID cards are not issued by next week, she says, the association will stage a protest in front of the NADRA office in Hayatabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2013.