Political commentary and analysis is my thing. However, I have been utterly shamed and disgraced to see the “third-gender” citizens living a miserable life in our society today and could not resist but raise the issue which has both social and political contours. This especially comes after I watched a video lately, brought to my notice by a learned professor from LUMS. The video got my head rolling.

I realize it is too ‘western’ and ‘first world’ an issue to talk about the rights of the “third-gender” citizens in Pakistan, let alone demanding equality of their rights. You cannot be sure to raise the issue without getting fingers pointing in your direction. For a serious consideration, the topic is restricted only to the drawing rooms of the Pakistani liberal intelligentsia, while the conservative Islamic scholarship comes down too hard on the rights of the community. Simply put, it is a social taboo to raise any voice for the rights of the fellow citizens, as if they have always been meant to live their lives in utter disgrace, discrimination and exploitation for the ‘sins’ they never committed.

More than 500,000 third-gender citizens are estimated to be surviving in Pakistan today. They are spread across the country and can never mount any pressure on the government in an organized manner for their rights. Majority of them have been suffering in their lives - both personally and professionally. They are subjected to public ridicule and mocking. They have been reduced to mere ‘wedding dancers’. And as if it is not heart-wrenching enough already, they have to succumb to prostitution for economic and other reasons.

Conservative clerics of the country who can’t even agree on celebrating the Eid on a single day have discreetly agreed on an unholy alliance against the LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders) rights. In their rants, they invoke their conservative innuendos wrapped in their archaic understanding of the religion against equal rights of LGBTs.

Transgenders did not have fundamental rights guaranteed to them as the citizens of this country before 2012.  And nothing remarkable happened even after 2012, except the then Chief Justice of Pakistan’s ruling with the scrapings of civil rights activism, which entitled transgenders with the constitutional rights like other citizens. However, as expected nothing much changed on the ground.

For their rights, transgender citizens have lost the battle in both religious and legal spheres. 

A breath of fresh air from years ago came with the risqué show called Late Night with Begum Nawazish Ali hosted by Ali Salim, son of an army colonel. It was soon fizzled out. The television show represented the "third gender" on the Pakistani airwaves. It inspired the community and gave out a strong message of hope and strength. And now when the show is nowhere to be seen, we returned back to only the daily politics of our bickering politicians consuming most of our airtime since long.

This video of a shemale from Peshawar, as I mentioned in the beginning, gripped and boggled my mind lately. It represents the saddest picture of the dismal state of discrimination and exploitation of the "third gender" in our society.

Paro was not allowed to celebrate her birthday which she only came to know at the last minute, when she and her 250-300 guests were not allowed to enter the hotel booked three months beforehand. And let me tell you this is not a yearly birthday like the ones celebrated by us folks. This was a onetime event in her life which they call “birthday” for which she went all across Pakistan to invite the transgender community.  She took the pains to visit city after city to invite her guests. This was her graduation, engagement, wedding and everything in life put together in one.  When her guru went to the hotel before the arrival of the lady of the day on the day of the event, the administration did not allow them to hold the ceremony. And the reason, my sources tell me as revealed by the hotel administration, was because Imran Khan and Pervez Khattak were visiting.

I would not let gory details of the incident waste my readers’ precious time any further. Long story short, Paro could only hold her birthday after procurement of a permit from the police station as asked by the hotel administration a few days later. And the last I checked, the DPO rejected her written application on account of her birthday categorized as “fahaashi”.

This is simply absurd and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. This birthday was supposed to be the happiest day of her life and she was embarrassed in front of her guests, after being ridiculed by the hotel administration. All her spending (to the tune of a million Pakistani rupees) was wasted.

And this whole issue came to my knowledge only after watching the video. We do realize that not everyone takes to protest and make a video calling out for ‘insaaf’ like this.

I have never been a social activist. I don’t usually take to the Liberty Chowk of Lahore with placards in my hands. I only write on political affairs and international relations. But I know this: If this person does not get justice and her due happiness back, I will, as a citizen of Pakistan, personally press charges against this hotel administration and the others involved in this crime.

So much to the praise of the Police of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, I ask the provincial government and the administration to take up this issue seriously and do what needs to be done. It is their duty to check the veracity of this story. I personally request the philanthropist Imran Khan to reach out to Paro and look into this matter before our media goes ablaze with this.

I hope that this issue is not brushed under the mat. It is my humble request to Imran Khan to reach out to Paro personally. After all, the biggest event of her life has been ruined, all her expenditure wasted and the advance money confiscated by the hotel as well. On top of that and most importantly she has been embarrassed, ridiculed and disgraced in front of her guests who came from all across Pakistan. For the least, I request Mr. Khan to give her a graceful birthday party at his residence. I am sure this shall be the best thing ever done by any political leader.

Finally this is not just Paros’s story. This is the story of every other third-gender citizen in this country. There are many others like Paro who just don’t speak up. I urge our leaders to promptly act on both fronts i.e. Policy and Action.

Paro's protest by wishalraheel