‘We are abandoned both by our families and by the state. Being denied both familial and social protection, we are destined to live a life as lesser humans. In the absence of access to education and skills, we are left with no other option except to beg or work as sex workers in a highly exploitative environment’. This is what X, a transgender person,told me when I recently got an opportunity to get insights into the problems faced by this highly vulnerable segment of society.For X;constitutionally promised civil, political and social rights of citizenship seem like a mirage. The very concept of citizenship in the contemporary civilised world signifies an inherence of rights. But if we view the plight of the transgendered citizens of Pakistan, they are virtually abandoned by all means. Deep-rooted stereotypes in society render it virtually impossible for transgenders to get access to fundamental social services such as education and health. The problem of ‘access’ in case of transgender citizens is primarily culturally driven. As narrated by X, under the tyranny of social attitudes it becomes practically impossible for them to attend conventional educational institutions. Because of societal attitudes, their parents are often left with no other choice but to keep transgender children away from school at home. Ultimately, in the case of majority of transgendered children, under severe duress from societal pressures their parents literally abandon their own children. In such a scenario, fundamental social services like education and health remain inaccessible to transgender persons in Pakistan.In the absence of enabling conditions to provide access to education and skill development, decent employment opportunities are virtually non-existent. As long as a culturally enabling environment is not created, it won’t be an unreasonable expectation from the state to extend some kind of social protection to transgendered people. Ironically, this vulnerable group is excluded from all sorts of social protection arrangements in place at this moment. For instance, the flagship cash transfers programme in Pakistan, Benazir Income Support Programme, caters to only female heads of low income families. Existing social protection policies need a re-evaluation and economic accommodation for excluded transgender citizens. It is not unaffordable even within existing resources to give an unconditional basic income to our most vulnerable citizens. As in case of education, the transgender citizens undergo even more harrowing experiences of exclusion when it comes to getting access to health services. The transgender person X narrated a personal experience of denial to hospital admission on pretext that hospital wards were only marked for ‘male’ and ‘female’ patients having no provision for the transgender people. In such a state of access to basic social rights of citizenship, it is not an overstatement to consider transgender people as the ‘abandoned citizens’ of Pakistan. The state and society has been unable to see them. Even quite recently, getting a national identity card, which is a basic prerequisite for seeking access to many services, was nearly impossible for transgender citizens. Like other marginalised groups, transgender citizens should have their voicein policy making which is possible only when they are genuinely represented in the political process It is heartening that after Supreme Court of Pakistan’s recent attention to their plight, now some efforts are being made to acknowledge their existence by giving them national identity cards. But still there are miles which we need to go before transgender citizens of Pakistan get their basic rights. With their voice in policy making and legislation the vulnerable community can more effectively negotiate terms of citizenship for themselves. The quest for social and economic rights must begin with a demand for political empowerment. Paternalistic conferment of a few occasional benefits by the benevolent privileged upon the under-privileged groups does not conform with the idea of modern citizenship.Like other marginalised groups, transgender citizens should have their voice in policy making which is possible only when they are genuinely represented in the political process. Without securing political rights, any tangible progress towards achievement of social and economic integration would remain a far-fetched dream. According to recent population census, the number of transgender people in Pakistan is only a little above ten thousand. Such a numerically small and highly scattered group with very less number of registered votes cannot attract attention of legislators. With little hope of finding place in legislature and other policy making for a of government, there is almost no room left for transgender people of Pakistan to secure their social and economic rights. This situation justifies earmarking reserve seats — at least one seat in national and each provincial assembly. During General Elections 2018, a transgender candidate contested election for a provincial assembly seat in Jhelum district of Punjab and ended up in getting only 220 votes in a constituency where voter turnout was more than 146000. This makes need of reserve seats a rational solution to politically empower transgender citizens which will help them in securing their civil, political and social rights of citizenship. The writer is a development policy analyst having a graduate degree from the London School of Economics Published in Daily Times, August 5th 2018.