In 2008, Edhi Foundation's headquarters reported taking in about 300 abandoned babies annually while some 50,000 children at any given moment depended on the foundation for their basic survival. That was six years ago; one can imagine the number of abandoned children in 2014. In a recent announcement to take up the issue of deserted children’s adoption cases, the Supreme Court seeks a mechanism to address the rights and modalities of adoption for parent-less or abandoned children. The issue, replete with its many dilemmas, zeroes in on NADRA.

According to Abdul Sattar Edhi, the National Database and Registration Authority is enabling precarity surrounding the lives of these young ones. Time and again, citizens seeking to adopt orphans have been compelled to go down the path of illegality to legitimize what are otherwise court-sanctioned children. In other words, adoption in Pakistan is not illegal: It simply lacks the specific laws required to regulate this exercise.

Without being issued their Form Bs, the mere existence of these children becomes illegal. From hereon begins the search for false birth certificates, marriages and fake parents to somehow legitimize their presence. On the flip-side, there is the issue of child trafficking. One of the most harrowing consequences of this legal lacuna became apparent in Gilgit-Baltistan when a disturbing trend grew rampant of foreigners claiming the guardianship of local children in 2011. The only venue through which adoption is legalized in our country is through the old and dusty Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 – which only worsens this social and administrative conundrum.

The decision to look this issue up by the Supreme Court comes 27 months late. That is, two years and three months to come up with a pragmatic and safe solution for a problem that was, if you look closer, entirely preventable.