Activists say millions still lack the Computerized National Identity Card as critics cite database breaches and privacy violations.
After three years of repeated attempts to get her digital national identity card, Rubina, a woman from Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, decided to take her battle to court, winning a landmark victory.
Until then, Pakistanis had not been able to get the Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) unless they presented their father’s ID card – an impossibility for many people, including those like Rubina who were raised by single mothers.
The card is vital to vote, access government benefits, including public schools and healthcare, open a bank account or apply for jobs.
“I would turn up there, and be told to bring my father’s card,” said Rubina, 21, who goes by her first name.
“My mother raised me after my father abandoned us soon after my birth. How could I furnish his identity papers then?”
Rubina’s frustration drove her to file a petition at the high court in Sindh province, which in November ruled that the government agency that oversees the CNIC must issue her a card based on her mother’s citizenship record.
For Rubina, the decision meant she could apply to take over her mother’s job as an attendant in the state education department when her mother retired.
More widely, her case ends the effective exclusion of children of single mothers from the ID card scheme, said Haris Khaleeq, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a nonprofit.