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August 13, 2020

Dancing in the dark corners of Rawalpindi and our demons


August 13, 2020

By Hassan Shehzad

Reem does not know how many of them are in Rawalpindi. No one knows the number for sure.

But they have maintained their docile yet vivid existence at all the dark corners of both Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Usually, “Islamabad deserted” is a common headline on Eids as much of the most of the city’s residents go back to their native areas to celebrate these festivals with their near and dear ones.

But there are those who have been banished off from their hometowns by their near and dear ones and the doors to their houses have been bolted for them after them.

They do not go back home and they do not go to mosques to say their prayers or carry out other religious rituals.

They have many identities like transgender, transvestite, Khawaja Sara and Khusra. They come dancing and smiling to you as you stop at a red signal ­– any red signal on the road – and seek alms.

You can also spot them dancing on marriages or other such events. But Reem says no one can understand them better than someone from their own family.

“Violence of worst kind is meted out to them. Recently, some people booked them for dancing at a function. When they reached the venue, the supposed hosts took out guns and forced them to undress,” Reems tells me, choosing the posture that may best suites her for a newspaper interview. She is in-charge of the Tahufuz Centre, meant for addressing complaints of trans.

Tucked smartly in the Women’s Police Station in front of Police Lines Rawalpindi is the neat and clean office of Tahufuz.

ASP Beenish Uzair, who has proved her mettle solving difficult cases of serious crimes like kidnapping for ransom, guided me and Malik Ramzan Ali, a documentary maker, to this centre.

The crime scene that Reem narrated had already been making rounds on social media. But what is little known is what happened next. “Later, the gunmen subjected these trans people to sexual and other abuses all through the night until they managed to get away. Imagine the terror of guns and what they went through. They were reluctant to lodge a police case but we traced them and assured them of their protection. We have also traced the attackers,” Reem tells me.

Herself a trans with a Master’s degree in international relations from Sargodha University, Reem serves her community to protect them from crimes in Rawalpindi.

Basically, Rawalpindi CPO Rana Ahsan Younas is the mover behind setting up this centre, she says. During corona chaos, CPO Rana went for distribution of food to the dirt-poor people and found that transgenders are suffering a lot, she said, and their misery is manifold as police also ill-treat them when they go to lodge a case.

To resolve this problem, CPO Rana set up Tahufuz Centre that addresses all the complaints of and about trans people, she said.

Although Reem believes in government intervention for resolution of problems, trans people have been very proactive for their cause. They have launched meaningful initiatives in Islamabad and fortunately top administration officers in the federal capital are always out to facilitate them.

— Hassan Shehzad