By: Mahwish Akhtar.
Transgender (also referred to as khusra) reflects a group of people who enjoys the least amount of respect or rights in Pakistan. Due to the controversial nature and typical mindset of people, the subject of Transgender rights in Pakistan is not even discussed in sophisticated circles. Most people do not even consider them as a part of their community; massive rejections are often faced by transgenders in almost all the parts of Pakistan.
According to recent research studies conducted on transgenderism, approximately one out of 50 children are identified with a transgender tendency/ potential. In other words, about 2 percent population of Pakistan is affected by transgenderism.
In our society, transgenders are usually first identified by the families. The community often mistakes them as pre-homosexuals and most Pakistani families become aggressive towards them. For example, strict warnings are given to them to change their attitude and most of them are rejected by their communities and loved ones.
I have often wondered why it is that generally there is hatred for ‘transgender’ in Pakistan. The term means different things to different people. At a very basic it means being born not knowing which gender you belong to.
A myth seems to have formed that they cannot do any work except for sing and dance. I wonder who started this, the downwards spiral of degradation. Now they are not treated as equal, they live in secluded communities with their own kind, often in extreme poverty. Most are uneducated as the notion of a transgender child being brought up in a normal household and studying in a mainstream school is not an acceptable reality.
As Pakistanis, we need to realize that this is not merely a war that these individuals have to fight they are human beings, just like us, and deserve as much of a right to education and these individuals have voices that are not heard by anyone. We need to be the voice that speaks on their behalf, fights for their rights and makes living for them less painful.
Riffie Khan has a Double Master’s degree from Shah Abdul Latif University in Shikarpur in Economics and Political Sciences. However, despite her academic achievements, she has been unable to hold down a job.
In 2003, Khan was forced to leave her job at the National Medical Centre in Karachi, where she worked as front desk officer, because she did not fit in.
Khan is one of many transgender people in the country who suffer in their professional and personal lives due to discrimination. “It’s the educated people that upset me the most,” she says. “When they discriminate against people like me, it hurts even more.”
RIGHTS OF TRANSGENDER
The answer is pretty straightforward. Transgenders and LGBT community are considered as a sign of shame and disgrace in the Pakistani culture. Most of these individuals never get a chance to acquire education in the regular schools due to discriminatory treatment and disgusting attitude of fellow citizens.
Consequently, most of these individuals have no other option, but to make their living by singing and dancing alongside the road or in private parties. Additionally, transgenders are usually not encouraged to live amongst regular mohalla’s. They are bound to establish their own colonies outside of regular communities.
There are several other issues that are faced by transgenders in Pakistan; such as:
- There is no government aid or support system to help these individuals live a normal life.
- Government institutions and other governing bodies are known to harass these individuals.
- In case of any criminal victimization or even sexual harassment, these individuals get no help/ support from the community or government institutions.
- Due to literally no job opportunities and financial security, most members of the transgender community is forced to make their living by prostitution.
Current Legislative Situation for Transgender Rights in Pakistan
In last elections, many transgenders in Pakistan wrote the history by casting their vote to choose their political representative. This decision of Supreme Court was successfully presided by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.
In 2009, Supreme Court also passed the order of including the category of ‘third gender’ in the national identity card form. Transgenders in Pakistan were awarded the right to REGISTER as a third gender on their CNICs in 2012. a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, ruled that the transgender community is equally entitled to rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens, including the right of inheritance after the death of parents, job opportunities, free education and health care.
However, while their rights are guaranteed on paper, members of the transgender community say they do not have these rights in practice and provincial welfare departments have yet to implement the decision.
As a result, they continue to face discrimination from society. They largely depend on a livelihood of singing and dancing at weddings and birth celebrations. They are also treated as sex objects and often become the victims of violent assault.
- The supreme court of Pakistan has legally declared recently that transgenders have equal rights and are a normal citizen of Pakistan. The latest decision includes equality in all aspects including rights in inheritance after the death of parents, job opportunities and hiring of individuals etc. In 2009, Supreme Court also passed the order of including the category of ‘third gender’ in the national identity card form. In fact, in the last elections, many transgenders in Pakistan wrote the history by casting their vote to choose their political representative. This decision of Supreme Court was successfully presided by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhary.
- Besides government, several non-government bodies are also taking an active interest in improving the quality of life in the transgender community. For example, one such name is Gender Interactive Alliance.
- Although, this is perhaps the first initiative taken by Pakistani Government to safeguard the transgender rights in Pakistan, I best hope that this will bring a true change in the mindsets of people as well. It is high time we start respecting individuals based on their individuality and not our judgment of their character and sexuality.
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(Short Story) Unsated Desire
Yes, we all four live together in one house. Eating, laughing, sleeping and sitting together.
Our house isn’t as big as the previous one but since we were more than four over there it was bound to be big. We never felt like we were at home but we had to adapt and silence our hearts’ protests.
Obviously, there were more who spoke and many more who listened. Still the food is the same over here as it used to be. There was also an element of loneliness as well since we all have different attitudes.
One of us would just eat non-stop.
We could only see the outside world from our cage, whenever somebody opened the cage’s door to feed us – the four colorful parrots – someone amongst us would try to fly off… though none of us ever succeeded.
One parrot, manifesting anger, went on a hunger strike.
He assumed that if the owner saw this state of his he would take pity and let him go. But alas he passed away hoping for liberty.
From today I too am going on a hunger strike since he was right. After all what is the point of this imprisonment called life?
(New Year Special) The Journey Back!
By: Maha Nadeem
It was New Year’s night and he was at Club 800 with his friends.
He had scarcely reached the dance floor when the phone rang, “when will you come back?” It was Tahira’s voice.
“Mom, are you kidding? It’s my routine, if you’ve forgotten. And since when did you become a typical mother?” was the response along with ending the call.
Holding a drink in one hand he advanced to the dance floor. He was handsome. A slight shave and a bad haircut, shirt buttons strewn open along with ripped jeans, a 20 year old in the 2nd year of his BBA.
In childhood he was never given any specific care thus resulting in this state with him becoming extremely moody and ill-mannered.
This fact however, was deeply disturbing his parents.
Kamran, who was busy on his phone, was taken aback by his wife Tahira’s statement “we have spoiled our child” she said in dismay.
“Oh dear, why are you so worried? I have plans to handle the situation”, said Kamran smiling.
“Let’s see!” was his wife’s reply. Fair, medium height Tahira was Hamza’s mother.
She was a woman with a limited social circle, looking ordinary at first glance but that’s not the case.
Kamran had decided to send his son outside Pakistan to study (so that his mind wouldn’t settle on useless things) and prevent him from falling deeper.
All preparations were complete.
Keeping breakfast in his room a servant passed on the message that his father had called him.
A mustache on his face, an ajrak covering his neck and a starched kurta put on quite a royal impression.
He was an important figure in a political party.
Kamran Sahab was sitting with his back pressed to the chair.
Upon his son’s entrance he sat straight and without hesitation or holding back started:
“Day after tomorrow is your flight to America; finish the remainder of your studies there. I’m not in the mood to listen to anything. You are going and that’s final. Is it clear to you?” he said stopping to take a deep breath.
“But how will I” Hamza was about to start but his father cut through his words saying, “all arrangements have been made; you will be staying in our Texas flat since the university is quite close.
“For money your account will be enough but you will receive some from me every month. Understood?” was the crisp and no-nonsense tone used by his father.
“Okay” said Hamza knowing he couldn’t do anything more.
At night he told his friends about going… “Come on dude are you serious” said Umar.
“Hamza its good for you, you’ll be more comfortable there if you know what I mean” said Ayesha drawing out attention to specific points.
“Leave it people his level is above us, he’s just a mummy daddy boy while we’re free, even a few days ago his mom called him to come home since there was trouble on the streets!” Everyone howled with laughter and Hamza just walked away shamefully.
All the packing was done beforehand…now he was just staring at the wall lying on his bed, pondering over his friends’ words till he fell asleep not knowing when.
The next day and night were consumed by travel and he went straight to the flat.
Opening the door there was a lounge having bedrooms at the ends and in front a beautiful American kitchen.
The long windows provided a clear view of the whole country. His entrance was to the University of Texas, just a street or 2 away from the flat.
Next day while climbing the stairs of the university and observing the people passing by, he remembered Ayesha’s words and raised his guards.
32 year old Sheri was from Lahore and was Hamza’s classmate. Going to clubs and getting drunk were now his habits.
He was a Muslim only in name.
Finding someone from your homeland is considered a blessing, that person sharing most of your habits, impossibility and yet here it was.
Thus began a beautiful friendship of depravity. Mostly getting drunk, spending money as if it were water and neglecting study or religion related.
One night both were passing a seemingly empty alley when a voice behind them said “everything will stay here!”
Both turned around in surprise seeing the old man. A very rough beard, scattered mud filled hair, bags under the eyes and lines on the face clearly indicated age.
The stranger wearing ragged clothes was arranging the assortment of things in front of him.
Both went closer to him and Hamza said: “What are you doing” although Sheri was observing the items which included a prayer mat, prayer beads, 2 to 3 types of idols, the Christian cross…
Their drunk states wore-off, they howled with laughter “Baba jee tusi zameen pai janat bana rhay ho” said Sheri mockingly.
“Nonsense, ha you can’t handle the bittersweet truth can you? In this world and the next the only way we get there is if we become better and fix ourselves by worshipping Allah” he responded, gesturing towards the sky.
Let’s go the old man’s crazy, came Sheri’s response in the whole conversation. “Crazy, sure I’m crazy since I don’t indulge in a vice of this world” was the man’s response as they abandoned the alley to leave to their respective homes. At night Hamza was unable to sleep and gazed at the ceiling pondering the old man’s words till sleep engulfed him.
He dreamt…being on a mountain top that overlooked quite a few mountains and then all of a sudden most animals present nearby took to their heels or wings and the area was ominous before a high pressure wind engulfed the scene.
So strong was the wind that Hamza had to cover his face.
When he opened his eyes he was staring in despair as the wind was breaking rocks and carrying them away while fireballs engulfed the sky.
Any attempts to run brought him back to the place.
However, he managed to escape the dream and return to reality with a yell.
Even in the cold weather of Texas he was drenched in sweat from the dream along with fear.
Despite the darkness he went to the balcony.
That fearful dream kept replaying in his brain, despite all attempts to forget it.
Even now he would gaze upon the large indiscernible city with an absent mind wondering what his dream meant. Who would tell him what his dream meant, and why he received it.
For a few days he was disturbed and didn’t even go to the university, not eating correctly for a few days and hadn’t even seen Sheri.
He felt the need to visit the old man despite his confusion…his sixth sense berated him saying the dream was the old man’s fault… and the dream was somehow centered around the old man himself.
One day he was bringing some groceries home when he saw the old man in exactly the same way as before, Hamza almost leapt towards the old man saying baba jee.
The old man responded looking at Hamza…“were you scared of the dream?”
So great was the shock Hamza received that he fell flat. He was going to ask why or how…words just wouldn’t come out of his mouth.
“Fear not, your face depicts your dream” said the man rearranging his items. “Can you tell me what it means?” Hamza said punctuating each word.
“Step away from your worldly setup and your difficulties will disappear. This life is of days, and this world just made of mud” said the man pointing far away.
Hamza’s heart felt a weird shudder since he couldn’t understand as his mind was now confused.
He then asked a question “baba jee just what are all these items” he indicated towards the items arranged in front of him.
“All are one; different ways yet worship to the same, the only Allah. All worship him yet the way is different, so innocent these people, so innocent” said the old man laughing loudly.
Fear had enraptured him and retraced his steps home, and upon reaching home had called Sheri and told him everything in one breath.
“Hamza, I told you the old man is crazy and yet you went to see him” said Sheri after listening to Hamza.
“My limbs travelled towards him, not me. Sheri I’ve been having weird experiences ever since that night and I don’t know why or what is happening” now Sheri understood that Hamza was deeply worried.
“Ok listen up you get some rest, I don’t think you’re feeling well” said Sheri and cut the call.
He was now feeling as if his heart had despaired from everything while thinking of things never thought of before; he was now thinking about Islam and realized that he never really held any ties to Islam.
What is Islam? How is Islam so powerful? He knew nothing except for the darkness that was currently surrounding him.
In that moment he prayed that he receive some form of hidayat with all his heart, all the while keeping his eyes locked upon the scenery surrounding him.
He was downcast, gloomy and the man’s words kept eating away at him, his direction of thoughts changed when he heard the azan.
It was asr time and thus he went to the mosque, upon reaching his body kept shuddering involuntarily almost unnoticeable.
Copying the person next to him Hamza performed wudu, then he joined the ranks.
Hamza was now at a loss as to what to read, his heart fell and tears just streamed down his face.
Breaking his niyat, he sat in a corner and cried. He didn’t know whether it was because he didn’t know what to read or that if he had any deeds that would keep him safe from hell’s fires if he died.
Much time passed and the mosque emptied, prayer finished long before, he spied the maulwi coming towards him.
“Assalam-u-alaikum” said the maulwi, the beard on his face merely enhanced his features and his accentuated his approachability. “walaikum-as-salam” said Hamza looking at his face.
“Yes I was looking at you for some time, you look worried and quite depressed, any reason why” said the maulwi politely.
“Can I reach the same level of peace and satisfaction present on your face” said Hamza wiping his eyes.
“Sure sure, just bow down your head to Allah, he understands your plight…
“How do I bow my head down when I don’t even know about Islam, except la illa ha illalah Mohammad ur rasool Allah” said Hamza shoving his issue in front of the man and realizing that he had found someone who could help.
“I shall teach you everything you need to know provided you promise that you don’t stray away from the needed path” said the maulwi patting his hands. Hamza simply smiled since he had already promised to do so and believed truly that he would also one day attain the same sense of peace that the man in front of him exuded.
Now it had been a few days and he came daily. He had learnt how to pray and felt much better than before. He felt much happier and had also decided to keep his beard and its growth was proof of doing so…the depression also fading away.
One day he was hit by the thought of the old man and his dream. He politely asked: “Maulwi sahab some time ago I met an old man who would say weird things, his words caused me to experience terrifying fear for my akhira and I had a dream that would make it worse. Can you explain to me what my dream meant?”
“What did you see in this dream of yours?” Asked the maulwi seeing the lines of fear cross his pupil’s face.
“I saw a sight of the Day of Judgment, I was atop a mountain and I could see around me the earth being torn and carried away by the wind and fireballs rained down from the sky.
“Everything nearby was being destroyed and I had no way to escape from there” was the response and it was accentuated by the hair on the back of his neck rising in fear once again.
“Your dream means that you should follow the path of hidayat and safety meaning Islam, before you die and the old man was a guide of sorts meant to push you in the right direction by inspiring fear to lead you from Allah himself”.
All of a sudden the conversation was interrupted by Hamza’s phone ringing.
“Sheri had an accident” said the caller in a rush.
“Which hospital…. Ok I’m coming” said Hamza.
He rushed to the hospital.
Sheri was present in the emergency ward on a ventilator.
Seeing his friend, his spirits dampened further and he raised his hands to pray.
“Oh Allah! Never have I asked for anything from you since I never knew how to. I ask that you help my friend, to prevent him from dying and to make him better!”
Hamza’s eyes didn’t stop shedding tears the whole time.
People simply looked at him with unfettered curiosity.
He however, ignored them.
He wanted to do nothing else but bow down to Allah and beg, beg for his friend’s life to be saved.
“Mister Hamza!” he noticed the doctor who was going to provide details! “Yes!” he replied calming himself down.
“We’re sorry but Sheri has passed away” said the doctor and advanced, not wanting to see the results of the news.
Hamza just dropped to the floor and cried like a child.
In his disturbed state he called Sheri’s home in Pakistan.
The news to the family prompted them to catch the first flight to Texas.
He also told the maulwi and he now recalled the old man’s saying “step away from your worldly setup and your difficulties will disappear. This life is of days, and this world just made of mud!”
He realized the old man was praying for Sheri.
The maulwi came as quick as he could and comforted him.
Sheri’s father and 2 cousins arrived in America in the morning and took his body back to Pakistan.
Hamza was now alone as he would remember Sheri when going to the university…when walking the streets Hamza could feel Sheri was there but whenever he turned around he was never there.
He felt the loss of Sheri deeply but couldn’t do anything since no one ever returned from there.
Hamza was dividing his time into two…half the time at the university and half with the maulwi.
With the passage of time he was going through quite a few changes. His body language, clothes and character had completely changed.
Completing his BBA he returned to Pakistan, the same person but different character entirely.
He entered the house and went to the lounge.
His parents were present there.
Upon seeing him their eyes widened and jaws dropped.
Hamza looked completely different but at peace in kurta shalwar, sporting a proper beard and with a cap on top of his head.
It didn’t look like he came back from America but as if he came from a spiritual enlightenment.
“Hamza” both said as one, breaking the tense silence.
“Yes it’s me Hamza!” he replied. His eyes glowing with happiness.
His parents were surprised to say the least since mostly young ones returning from the West were more spoiled and rotten.
But here the case was different. They were happy that it was Hamza’s own choice.
Hamza told his parents everything that happened.
The entire environment of their house changed drastically.
Both parents did not reduce activities but included quite a few.
They became devout followers of Islam and due to their son were now walking the path of forgiveness.
Indeed Allah had showed them the path and the way to forgiveness through their son.
Regret Lasts Forever
By Asna Khan
Opening her eyes and rubbing them slowly Sana looked up to her digital clock to see the time as 7:52.
She instantly jumped out of bed noticing the complete silence in the chamber! Loud ticking of the clock on the wall reverberated throughout the room!
She wished that either time could be turned back or the fast moving second hand could be slowed down! Oh well a woman can dream can’t she! And with that she went to get dressed and ready since the van would arrive at 8.
She got as quick of a start as the second hand’s speed! Changing into her uniform, tying her hair into a pony, wearing her scarf, filling her water bottle and wearing her shoes.
With all these tasks done she got out of the house with her bag on the shoulders and file in hand only to see the van leave her house.
She tried to get anyone’s attention in the van by waving her hands but was in vain.
Now she had to get to the university by any means since there was a test – the reason she went to sleep late last night and woke late in the morning.
Since today’s paper was quite difficult, the thought reverberated to her dreams giving her no escape from the exam fear.
Banishing disturbing thoughts from her head she quickly decided to get a rikshaw and get to her university.
But the idea of travelling all alone in a rickshaw put many nasty thoughts in her mind.
Then the same question popped up, what to do then?
All of a sudden she realized why not go by bus. She shot that idea down just as suddenly realizing she would never make it on time.
Thus she was once again in a dilemma as to what path to take.
As she was lost in her thoughts a van pulled up scaring Sana to the point of holding her breath in, fearing a kidnapping situation.
She then looked up to see the familiar high roof of her university.
Wondering how all this was taking place and despite being confused she quickly opened the door and sat on the seat.
Looking at the watch on her hand she saw that it simply read 8, in disbelief she quickly pulled out her phone from the bag and once again saw the time as 8.
Taking a calming breath and thinking with a relaxed mind she understood what was happening, and she dove deep into the sea of wonder.
She realized that upon opening her eyes the time on the clock was not 7:52 but 7:25, the high roof she signaled earlier was simply not her van but a different one.
Fact of the matter was that due to her lack of preperation for this exam her brain received a large amount of stress that made her bungle things up.
Thus she took out her copies and books and prepared herself on everything she knew.
When the van reached university she entered the exam hall quite scared. Her anxiousness caused her to lose quite a bit of confidence.
She calmed herself down and tried to recompose before doing anything. She inhaled a deep breath and took a sip of water.
Then, after five minutes, she received her papers along with the rest. She noticed that most were giving each other worried looks while some had calmly began writing down answers.
Two examiners were also present looking around with unnerving eyes as if daring students to cheat, but somehow two and a half hours passed and the paper ended.
Sana gave her paper to the teacher and left the class. She now felt that she had unknowingly tried to fail since she had time before but she wasted it.
She had studied only one week before the paper, but there was no advantage to doing so. It turned out to be more harmful since none of the information stayed with her nor was she able to be prepared for her exam properly.
This caused anxiety which affected her sleep and she wasn’t able to have breakfast either, although these are regarded as the most important things for a good exam.
Now there was no point in thinking so profoundly or feeling depressed since time neither waits for anyone nor does it rewind.