Participants in Prejudice and Persecution


Recently, a video surfaced of a man brutally beating and abusing a trans individual. According to media reports, the man, known by the name of Jajja Butt, has been arrested along with other individuals involved in the incident.

Another video was also released of Julie, a member of the transgender community herself, narrating the details of the entire incident and the level of cruelty and abominable treatment – which includes being forced to drink urine, rape and violence – they are regularly subjected to.

While shedding light on the plight of the transgender community in the society, the emergence of the video also elicited a great deal of shock and outrage.

Although the expressions of outrage aren’t misplaced, there is also another issue that needs to be faced with: our role in enabling the condemnation of trans-individuals to the fringe of society where patterns of ostracization, marginalization, discrimination and violence against them reign.

How are we enablers and participants in perpetuating the position of the transgender community as second-class citizens? 

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It is not uncommon to hear “khusra” or “khusri” being thrown around as pejoratives or as so-called humor. And that is exactly what the usage of such language does; it reduces a community and a people to demonized and dehumanized subjects of crass humor, derogatory remarks, ridicule, insults and abuse. Our language is a vehicle for the reflection, reproduction and reinforcement of prevailing social realities, prejudices and beliefs, which are the most vile and unkind when it comes to vulnerable, neglected and persecuted communities like the transgender community.

Such is the level and pervasiveness of this ridicule that prime-time entertainment shows on major TV channels openly employ the identity of a trans individual as a device for humor by having the identity acted out as a character or costume.

These are nothing but shameless caricatures of the plight and situation of the transgender community in Pakistan.

A post by Rabia Tariq encapsulated the problem at hand:

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It is right to demand that the state take vigorous steps for the protection and welfare of the transgender community in Pakistan, but the burden of responsibility falls upon us also too for we have been complicit in their isolation and persecution, if not by indifference and insensitivity, then by inaction.

The Supreme Court’s earlier recognition of transgender individuals as a separate gender category on national identity cards and its stress on their right to vote were certainly groundbreaking developments, but these developments cannot work in a vacuum, and existing ground realities attest to this. It is essential to realize that a community which has been oppressed, isolated and ill-treated since decades can neither be integrated in society nor utilize any extension of equal rights without the necessary material and social conditions which must be created for them. The state or government may emphasize or order the employment of trans individuals, but individuals from the community itself cannot avail this without having acquired the necessary education or skills that they have been deprived from all their lives by their removal from participation in mainstream society, and without the cultural and social recognition, acceptance and tolerance of their presence in public spaces, their status as equal citizens with equal rights and equal humanity.

And it is here that we, as a society and a people, must step in to reflect on our role in enabling the discrimination and injustice against this community, and to challenge the entrenched and prejudiced institutional and cultural environment which perpetuates their persecution by our indifferent or active participation in it.

-Hafsa Khawaja

Handful of Salt


While the fuss and furor over a certain journalistic report violating national security raged, lesser attention was lent to the crux of the report itself: the reemergence of the government’s fresh resolve to tackle militant outfits and the stern communication to the military leadership of the need to be on the same page for it.

Voices from within the parliament have also been emerging against Pakistan’s problematic position, shady instruments and assets of foreign policy and national interests, and their ramifications. Aitzaz Ahsan took to bluntly criticizing the government for its unsuccessful imposition of “restrictions on non-state actors according to the National Action Plan”, as did PML-N lawmaker Rana Muhammad Afzal who is reported to have questioned the continued “nurturing” of Hafiz Saeed by the state.

There should be little uncertainty or confusion about the repercussions of these policies on Pakistan which include a fractured social fabric, the loss of 50,000 lives, and a tattered international image. The negligible and indifferent global response to Pakistan’s latest crusade for Kashmir has also disclosed the country’s embarrassingly insignificant standing and tainted reputation on the international stage; which squanders even the scarce diplomatic support and capital the country possesses. While numerous conspiracy theories can be contrived and churned to which this deplorable situation can be ascribed, it is undeniable that Pakistan owes this mess to a suspect stance and strategy on the issue of terrorism, and an appalling state of foreign policy, that others are all too willing to make vigorous use of in pushing for its isolation.

And domestically, what is there to see?

Only a few days ago, a Shia majlis was attacked in Nazimabad, killing four. But denial about targeted killings of the beleagured Shia community persist within the wider narrative of the population.

14650721_10153829077606433_5063245449293667997_nQuetta has been besieged by yet another one of the tragedies which have ceaselessly continued to devour and devastate the city. At least 61 cadets and guards have been killed in the attack on the police training college there.

Much praise has been heaped on the military leadership for eradicating the scourge of terrorism and reestablishing a semblance of law and order, a perception certainly bolstered by the DG ISPR’s claims that the “military has completely cleared all terrorist hideouts in Pakistan.” But it would serve us well to brush our memory and remember that an attack in Quetta just this August killed an entire generation of the city’s legal community. In September, suicide-bombers targeted a mosque in Mohmand Agency, and an Imambargah in Shikarpur during Eid prayers. A few days ago, four Shia Hazara women were murdered after assailants opened fire at their bus in Quetta. Earlier this year, the attacks on Bacha Khan University and Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park took place. The frequency of terrorist assaults may have considerably slid down the scale, and the sites of these attacks may have shifted to neglected and orphaned “peripheries” like Quetta and FATA, but the danger and threat persists. And it will linger as long as state institutions remain divided on the matter and continue to keep in place dubious policies and doctrines that bar an unequivocal commitment to fight extremism and terrorism in all tints and tones.

On the other hand, the lifted moratorium on the death penalty, perhaps the only implemented measure of the much-hailed National Action Plan, continues to work in full force without any hindrance of transparency and accountability. Earlier having delayed the execution of a mentally-ill 50 year old man by the name of Imdad Ali, the Supreme Court recently and outrageously ruled that schizophrenia cannot be considered a mental disorder, essentially clearing the way for his execution. The mockery and sham of justice continues at the courts and the gallows.

The National Action Plan also came into rare force in April when the planned convention for the commemoration of the Okara peasants’ struggle was banned and more than 4000 peasants were charged under anti-terrorism laws. That demands for land rights by peasants now constitute terrorist offences violating ‘national security’ while those who incite hate, violence and maintain actual networks of extremism and terrorism enjoy the luxuries of liberties through the fear and patronage of the state, says much about the scheme of the National Action Plan and the farce of ‘national security’ which is only employed against the weak, those who speak truth to power and those who put pen to paper.

More recently, the parallel conference on Kashmir reportedly held by the infamous Difa-e-Pakistan Council in Islamabad while the Prime Minister chaired the All Parties Conference is also a symbolic testament to the ideological polarization and contestation for power and influence in Pakistan between the government and various hardliner groups. This reported gathering, of what was essentially a coterie of notorious individuals such as Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, and Ahmed Ludhianvi, was especially potent as a reminder of the government and establishment’s shaky sense of proclaimed purpose, weak will and faint dedication towards reining in “banned” groups and individuals involved in nefarious activities and agendas.

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That these ‘banned’ outfits were allowed to hold a gathering while Section 144 was supposedly in application, just to curb a political party’s protests, paints an expose of the dark farce that Pakistan has come to be.

parents-of-aps-martyrs-threaten-capital-sit-in-1431828110-6122Most alarmingly, the APS tragedy, which the so-called “paradigm shift” and the grand National Action Plan were predicated upon, has been the subject of a concerted and brazen campaign of silencing and harassment which has been directed at the parents of the 141 children that have been tirelessly and bravely demanding an inquiry and investigation into the ghastly attack. Who does an inquiry threaten and why?

So as hopes slowly climb upon the possibility of the political and military leadership finally working in tandem against terrorist and non-state actors, it is critical to take the news with not a pinch, but a handful of salt. If they truly are serious and sincere about battling the menace of terrorism and extremism in the country, the political and military establishment can no longer proceed without dismantling existing ideological frameworks guiding state policy; the dangerous and illusory distinctions between “good” and “bad” Taliban; the selectivity of fight against terrorist and extremist outfits, and the pandering, appeasement and patronage of militant sectarian outfits and organizations like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is predicated upon the logic of “assets” and useful instruments of so-called national interest and strategic advantage. To reaffirm the revival of resolve in the struggle against terrorism, the leadership of the country needs to go beyond mere political posturing, grandstanding, and lofty rhetoric. It needs to practically demonstrate change and prove it by concrete action. Until then, the eyewash shall be carried on with and the country’s current direction, which has yielded nothing but disaster domestically and internationally, shall continue to hold Pakistan and its future hostage. And we shall continue to mourn the loss of lives, cities, and the loss of Pakistan.

-Hafsa Khawaja