I should have attended the Asma Jahangir Conference. Our city is regaining its space for debate and festival-like gatherings, which had come to a halt during the war on terror and later on during Covid lockdowns. I don’t agree with all the things said at the conference, but I feel there should be avenues where the voice of dissents could be heard and questioned. The only thing that I don’t like about such a festival is the conduct of three or four sessions simultaneously. Moreover, each session has more than four panellists, which triggers a fight among them to grab more time from others.
I wanted to attend the session on ‘Transgender Rights Law Under Threat and the Plight of the Community in Pakistan’, for the law is being debated on social media. Moreover, we often report incidents of violence against transgender persons and how the killers have never been punished. There is no doubt that the transgender community needed legal representation and equal treatment as granted under the Constitution.
As I had some other pressing engagements, I watched the session online last night. Senator Kamran Murtaza of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl sought to clarify how religious groups were not opposed to the bill, claiming that the community was exploited by society as a whole, rather than by religious circles. If the Constitution and the law had granted them all of their rights, there would have been no difficulty, but because they did not, the fault lay elsewhere. Perhaps in our attitude. According to reports, the law is anti-discriminatory in nature, saving the community from humiliating processes to establish their genders and providing a means to report gender-based abuse through gender expression and identity.
According to Islamic scholar Haider Farooq Maududi, a solution to the problem lies in the scientific and biological aspects of a transgender person, which may be resolved peacefully by consulting the opinions of competent professionals. Nature produced a man and a woman, and transgender people were defined as having a distinct genetic composition for medical reasons. To dispel any ambiguities, the World Health Organization’s international medical panel proposed names and titles for such persons who might be referred to
Another session, which caught my attention, was on “Mainstreaming Radicalism: Legitimizing Extremists – Impact on Minorities”. PML-N MPA Tahir Khalil Sandhu made the audience laugh when he said the constitutional articles barring a non-Muslim from becoming a president should be changed: Then he said in Punjabi: “I guarantee you that no Christian or Sikh will ever become a president or prime minister”. The gathering had Qamar Suleman, a representative of the Ahmadiyya Community. How many times in our lives, do we hear them?
According to Sarwan Kumar Bhil, a Bhil community spokesman, the scheduled Hindu castes are being oppressed by both the state and the wealthy, upper-class Hindus. He said that a lack of chances had resulted in a high number of suicides in his neighbourhood. No scheduled caste Hindu has ever served on a government commission or been elected as an MPA or MNA on reserve seats. He urged that the National Minority Commission include a representation from the Bheel group and that political parties stop ‘picking and choosing’ minority issues.
Supreme Court lawyer Sabahat Rizvi criticised the purposeful repression of pluralism for damaging society and governmental systems. Powerful organisations utilised radicalism and extremism as foreign policy instruments, oblivious to the fact that promoting such a worldview would disproportionately harm minorities. Legislators took satisfaction in passing legislation that targeted minorities.