No Identity Card, No Vaccine

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The Government of Pakistan started the anti-Corona vaccination campaign a few months ago. Initially, the citizens above the age of 60 years were vaccinated and with the passage of time this age limit was dropped down to 40 years. In the latest policy statement shared by the Health and Information ministry, any one holding CNIC (Computerized National Identity Card) is eligible for the vaccination. In Pakistan, every citizen can apply for his/her national identity CNIC at the age of 18. This current policy created easy access for vaccination except those who do not have their CNIC.

But who are they?

There are few segments of the society who do not possess the CNIC cards, for example:

  1. Transgender Community
  2. Pakistani Bengali/ Behari Community
  3. Afghan Refugees

All those people who do not have valid documents of identity or their CNIC has been blocked due to any other reason, they do not have any alternate mechanism to get vaccinated.

Sami Jan, a transgender while talking to Eat News shared “being a transgender it is hard to get vaccinated as I and my community do not hold CNIC, society doesn’t consider us as its complete member, we are being treated as second grade citizen. The Government has linked vaccination with CNIC and now it is very difficult to vaccinate ourselves in the absence of CNIC. Risk factor of being Corona positive has increased”. “It is unfortunate that pet animals are treated with vaccines but human beings are suffering due to policy matters. On the other hand lack of education and information in transgender community is also a big hurdle in vaccination process, as few of our senior transgender community members say it has adverse effects”, Sami Jan added.

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Census shows that more than 21thousand transgender community members are living in Pakistan but according to the organizations working for transgender, their actual numbers are much higher than official numbers. These organizations believe that large number of transgender do not registered themselves with official data. Problems arise when they apply for the national identification card. Transgender have to go through a rigorous fatigue of documentation regarding their gender. Although no accurate data is available as to what is the total number of transgender who do not hold CNIC, but according to carefully constructed rough estimate “their numbers are in thousands who are without CNIC”.

Afzal Javid, an official of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) working for the rights of transgender says, “Majority of transgender in Pakistan leave their homes in their childhood and join the transgender community. When it is the phase of CNIC, it is difficult to whom they consider and document their father in CNIC application form”.

National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) Spokesman Mr. Faiq briefed EAT News that “NADRA is following the laws of the land, yes it is a fact that CNIC issuance process for the transgender is little bit difficult and complicated as compared to the other citizens, as transgender have different categories. Some are known and some are unknown parented. Initially NADRA registered their Guru (Elder of the community), then the NADRA system generated name is assigned to them and they are able to get their CNIC.” Some other communities living in Pakistan for a long period of time do not possess citizenship identification documents. Pakistani Bengali Community has been living in the country for decades, but on governmental and official level these were not considered as local citizens so they are not issued national identity.

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Rana Tahir, an elder of this community while speaking to EAT News said, “Approximate number of Pakistani Bengalis is 2 million. NADRA (National Database and Regulatory Authority) has blocked the CNIC of half a million people and there is no chance of issuance of new CNIC immediately. We are living an uncertain life, without CNIC it is not possible to get vaccinated, now only God can save us from this pandemic”. Pakistan is hosting Afghan refugees since 1979 USSR- Afghan war, more than four decades being neighbors and in the name of Muslim brotherhood. According to an estimate more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan. Majority of them do not have any legal documents so they are considered as illegal.

Mr. Qaisar Afridi, Spokesman of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) while speaking to EAT News told that any Afghan Refugee who is registered with NADRA (National Database and Regulatory Authority) will be facilitated in corona vaccination process while others will not be entertained. He also said the “PoR (Proof of Verification) Card is essential for every Afghan Refugee for the vaccination process because this card links Refugee with NADRA”. Many believe that once these Afghans begin registration for vaccination, it’ll be helpful to determine and identify the illegal settlers as well, a problem that Pakistan has been dealing with for a longtime. Illegal afghan refugees indulge in cross border smuggling of drugs, arms as well as facilitating other illegal immigrants inside Pakistan. When contacted, Head of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) Federal Minister Mr. Asad Umar declined to give a comment on the matter, as to how the government plans to vaccinate a large number of people who are not present on government documents. Surely, it is a matter of great concern, as hundreds of thousands people will remain un-vaccinated…and May become a source of further spread of the coronavirus in Pakistan.

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Mohammad Farhan Niazi is a correspondent for Eat News in Pakistan and is an experienced senior producer with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in feature and news writing, non-linear editing, radio, multimedia journalism, Online journalism, film production, and sound. Strong media and communication professional graduated from University of Peshawar.

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Eat News is a Taiwanese digital media, analyzes current events and issues through column articles, videos, visual aid, and exclusive interviews.

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