ISLAMABAD: While some of the leading political parties talk about giving rights to people who are transgender and even including them in their election manifestos, these very parties shy away from granting members of the transgender community any representation either by ignoring them in ticket awards or even creating a special party wing for them.
Members of the transgender community are still struggling for acceptance in the Pakistani society. But a few people who are transgender have come forward to break these stereotypes by contesting the upcoming general elections 2018.
As many as 13 people who are transgender, had filed papers from across the country to contest next week’s general elections.
They had hoped that they would be welcomed by leading political parties and be provided with a party ticket since it would help them get the recognition, acceptance, confidence, security and most of all financial support, they need for running their election campaigns.
In this, they were left disappointed.
The demand that political parties establish a dedicated wing for members of the transgender community also went unheeded.
Nafeesa Khattak, from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), had assured during a public event in June, that her party would set up a wing for people who transgender.
Moreover, she had stated that she would lobby within her party to issue tickets to people who are transgender.
Osho Uzma, from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), had also assured to include a transgender wing to ensure a more inclusive democratic space.
But none of these assurances have materialised.
The only party to extend an electoral ticket to a person who is a transgender is a PTI splinter group led by former lawmaker Ayesha Gulalai (PTI-G). The group has issued tickets to four people who are transgender. Unfortunately, two of these candidates backed out due to various reasons.
The PTI, though, stated that they do not discriminate between candidates over their religion or gender orientation.
“PTI considers all citizens equal and do not believe in discriminating between them by dividing them as transgender or from a minority group,” PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry told The Express Tribune when asked why his party, which had issued the most tickets of all parties, could not hand at least one ticket to a person who is transgender.
PTI is one of the leading political parties which has not mentioned anything about the rights of people who are transgender in their election manifesto, unlike other political parties.
“Our party firmly believes that the transgender community should be given all their basic rights including those for education and health, among others,” explained Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator and Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq.
“If any of them [people who are transgender] would have applied for contesting the general elections through our party ticket, then we would have considered it,” Haq assured.
However, he poured cold water over his party’s plans to set up a dedicated wing for them, noting that doing so would be kind of discrimination.
Meanwhile, a senior PPP member, who did not wish to be named, said that while the party believes and fully supports people who are transgender for their rights, they currently have no plan for setting up a dedicated wing for them ahead of the elections.
“The ignorant attitude of political parties towards us in the upcoming general elections clearly reflects how much they support us or believe in giving us equal rights,” remarked Nadeem Kashish, a transgender who is contesting the upcoming elections as an independent candidate.
Kashish added that owing to the ignorant attitude of parties, many potential candidates from the transgender community had backed out.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2018.