Hoping against hope, Pakistan's transgenders launch election fight

ISLAMABAD  : “Give me a chance,” Nadeem Kashish pleads with voters in Islamabad. Her struggle is not for power — she knows her campaign is futile — but for acceptance, as transgenders make historic bids in the upcoming Pakistan election.

“I am contesting for the first time and your vote will give me my identity,” Kashish tells residents as she goes from door to door in a low-income neighbourhood near the Sufi shrine of Bari Imam, in the north of the capital.

Kashish, slender and clad in yellow plaid, is contesting in a district that pits her against incumbent prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and opposition leader Imran Khan.

PTI candidate sued for ‘stealing’ election song

Nadeem Kashish, who will contest in the general elections for a parliamentary seat, takes part in a campaign event at radio station “FM Power 99” in Islamabad. PHOTO:AFP

But the vote on July 25 is not about winning or losing for Pakistan’s transgenders, she says. “We have been given support and space by the government (to contest the elections) and we will use this opportunity with full force.”

Transgenders — also known in Pakistan as “khawajasiras”, an umbrella term denoting a third sex that includes transsexuals, transvestites and eunuchs — have long fought for their rights in Pakistan.

Parties nominate women candidates on hard to win seats

Many modern-day transgender people in Pakistan claim to be cultural heirs of the eunuchs who thrived at the courts of the Mughal emperors that ruled the Indian subcontinent for two centuries, until the British arrived in the 19th century and banned them.

“Give me a chance,” Nadeem Kashish pleads with voters in Islamabad.

In 2009, Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to legally recognise a third sex, allowing transgenders to obtain identity cards, and several have run in elections in the past.

This year Pakistan’s parliament passed a historic bill providing transgenders with the right to determine their own gender identity in all official documents, including choosing a blend of both genders.

But the nationwide vote on July 25 is a historic one for the community as authorities have removed gender as a criteria for candidates, meaning that, for example, men who identify as women are no longer forced to run as men.

Fake news and general elections in Pakistan

Transgenders number at least half a million people in the country, according to several studies — possibly up to two million, say TransAction, a rights organisation.

Pakistani transgender independent candidate Nadeem Kashish, who will contest in the general election for a parliamentary seat, distributes pamphlets on the campaign trail in her constitutency in Islamabad.

They are among the most politicised minority communities in Pakistan. Originally a record 13 transgender candidates sought to contest the 2018 election, though nine had to withdraw, mainly due to lack of funds.

Their campaign weapons are primarily social media and local meetings. “But I still believe that they will bag a few votes,” says Uzma Yaqoob, head of the Forum for Dignity Initiatives (FDI).

PPP chairman says 2018 elections pose a stern test for the party's supporters; urges them to gear up for the polls

  • Alliance with Imran Khan after elections on the cards: Asif Zardari

    PPP stalwart says his party can either be in the treasury or on opposition benches after the general elections

  • Bizenjo to contest elections from Awaran and Quetta

    Says contesting elections from Quetta too as its people have given much respect

    More in Pakistan

    Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/1753349/3-hoping-hope-pakistans-transgenders-launch-election-fight/