A Supreme Court order that will enable married women of the Hindu community to obtain computerised national identity cards without any hitch is welcome, said a leading Pakistani daily, also hoping that a draft Hindu marriage bill will be taken up in the upcoming session of the National Assembly.
An editorial Wednesday in the Dawn said that the Supreme Court Monday ordered the National Database and Registration Authority to take the necessary steps to enable married women of the Hindu community to obtain computerised national identity cards (CNICs) without any hitch.
The apex court took suo motu notice of the issue in 2009 after media reports on problems faced by a Hindu woman while trying to obtain a passport.
The daily observed: "Due to the lack of a proper marriage registration mechanism, Hindu women face problems not only while applying for a CNIC or passport, they are also excluded from obtaining their share of their husbands’ property."
Activists claim that due to the legal lacuna "it is easy for married Hindu women to be kidnapped and forcibly converted as they lack legal documents proving their marriage to Hindu spouses".
"While the SC’s intervention is welcome, it is a sad reflection on the government when the nation’s top court has to step in and ensure oppressed segments of society are given their due rights," it said.
The daily said that by denying marginalised sections of the population - such as Hindu women and homeless children whose parentage is unknown - "proof of identity, the state is denying them their fundamental rights".
According to an estimate, Hindus constitute around 5.5 percent of Pakistan's over 170 million people. Of them, over 90 percent live in Sindh while the rest are in Punjab and Balochistan.
The editorial went on to say that a draft Hindu marriage bill regulating marriage and divorce for Pakistan’s Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh communities has been drawn up.
"Hopefully, it will be taken up in the upcoming session of the National Assembly. We hope it is passed into law soon so that minorities and others will not face legal black holes where issues such as forced conversions and procurement of identity documents are concerned.
"The state must be more active in this regard," it said.