An image grab from the controversial TV program
In December 2013, a Pakistani television channel launched an open attack on the members of Pakistan's gay community, accusing them of misleading the nation, being part of a conspiracy hatched by Jews and Christians, and violating the tenets of Islam and Pakistan. A cleric appearing on the program declared that the Prophet Muhammad and Allah sent damnation upon such people, and internationally known Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney, former expert advisor to the UN on human rights, accused gays of being foreign spies in the streets of Pakistan and of serving the interests of terrorists.
In Pakistan, all minority groups have faced persecution over the past few decades (see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 884, Calls To Put Pakistan On Genocide Watch Amid Mounting Persecution Of Its Religious Minorities, September 25, 2012, and Inquiry and Analysis No. 1020, Textbooks In Pakistani Government Schools Teaching Hate Against Christians And Hindus, Jihad And Martyrdom To Young Students, October 2, 2013).
The recent anti-gay television program in Pakistan, which was titled "Khufia" and which aired on the Abb Takk channel, is being seen as part of a disturbing trend targeting minority communities in Pakistani society. In an Urdu daily, senior columnist Wusatullah Khan expressed exasperation and disappointment about the program's targeting of gays as well as about the television reporter's ignorance of the issues involved.
The following is a review of the television program.
Pakistani Cleric Mufti Iqbal Naqshbandi: "Allah And His Messenger [Muhammad] Send Damnations On These Kinds Of Men Who Wear Women's Clothes, [And] On Those Women Who, Clothed In Men's Garb, Invite To Sin"
Islamic cleric Mufti Iqbal Naqshbandi
The TV program opens with a commentator in the background begins outlining the context: "The land of Pakistan, whose rulers are drunk in the addiction of power and people, are in trouble; the enemies of Islam gave all those ills as gifts which centuries ago afflicted the Jews and Christians. We all know why the nation of Lot was destroyed, how homosexuality entered that nation; the torment of Allah destroyed that nation."
As footage of gay community members is shown, the male commentator continues: "In today's era, in every street, in every corner, you will see masculine-looking women who are physically men – but why do they consider themselves women? And from here begins in the culture AIDS, hepatitis and other life-threatening diseases, and invitation to the torment of Allah...."
Next, female television reporter Uzma Tahir appears on screen for a few minutes stating how Pakistan is afflicted by corruption of all sorts, including drinking and obscenity, and adding that "the rulers are in an addiction of power and the people are in an addiction [sic] of international conspiracy." The background commentator rejoins: "Is this our pious land, Pakistan, that was created by our ancestors and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan? If not, then we all can fulfil the Great Leader [Jinnah's] dream. Today, we will show you how men dressed as women search for the victim of their lust in the streets, [and] how, like in the West, men engage with men in those activities which we do not have the ability to describe. In the posh and surrounding areas of Karachi, we exposed such people, who despite being men struck up illegitimate relationships with [other] men, which are against Islam and Pakistani law."
The camera shows gays together, sometimes hiding their faces as TV crew members stop and ask them questions; crew members also invade the bedrooms of poor women who do not appear to be gay. Uzma Tahir reappears and says: "Today, we will show you open homosexuality in the posh areas of Karachi and centers of obscenity where bad activity is being carried out even without women. Lining the streets are gays, or men? What is their real intention?
As cameras follow streets, cars and gay community members, she says: "Our purpose is to show those men who appear to be men but who, adopting the garb of women, stand on the sidewalks and publicly extend to people an invitation to sin, and have wrong sexual relations with them too."
An apparent woman stopped by the reporter is asked, "Male or female?" answers, "Male." "Did you have surgery for this?" "I did nothing. I am this way naturally. Howsoever I am, am from Allah." The reporter then tries to move aside the fabric hiding the individual's face but she resists, saying, "I do not want to be on camera." The reporter says, "If you are a gay, we will let you go" and she replies, "I am not a thief or dacoit [armed robber]." At this point, an attention-grabbing title in Urdu appears on the screen: "Gay or on the hunt?" The reporter asks, "Tell me if you have seen men dressed as women soliciting here." She replies, "I have been in this for 14 years but I have seen nothing," she responds. Two men accompanying the reporter try to grab the woman's hands and threaten her, saying, "You are committing a crime." The reporter keeps hounding the woman, repeatedly asking, "Are you gay?" She is forced to say: "Yes, I am." She is then repeatedly accused of spreading disease and destroying many lives."
Next, a clip of Islamic cleric Mufti Iqbal Naqshbandi is screened; in it, he quotes Ayesha Siddiqa, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, as having said: "Allah and his messenger [Muhammad] send damnations on these kinds of men who wear women's clothes, [and] on those women who, clothed in men's garb, invite to sin." Naqshbandi declares that such activities are haram, or forbidden in Islam.
The program returns to the hapless woman on the street, who is asked, "Why don't you stop this?" She responds: "Let the government give a job." The two men accompanying the reporter intervene: "You have shaved your chest hair too?" She responds, "I don't have silicone [breast implants]," The reporter makes disparaging comments: "[She] hasn't operated, no silicone... this thing has become so open in our culture that boys are doing all these things, having [breast implant] surgery [for breast implants], only for money."
Pakistani Human Rights Activist Ansar Burney – Former Expert Advisor To The UN On Human Rights: "[Homosexuality] Is A Matter Of Extreme Concern; They Are Standing At Every Crossroads...; They Are Standing At Every [Stop] Signal; They May Be Foreign Agents"
Human rights activist Ansar Burney
Internationally known Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney – who has a graduate degree in law from the Karachi University, is reportedly a recipient of an honorary doctorate in philosophy, and has served as Pakistan's federal minister of human rights, in addition to being a former expert advisor to the UN on human rights – lends a supporting hand to the television journalist. He says of gays: "This is a matter of extreme concern. They are standing at every crossroads, they are standing at every [stop] signal; they may be foreign agents [spies]. Generals pass by there, as do soldiers, judges, doctors, NGO [staffers], and [members of the] media. Maybe they are watching in this garb, they are looking, and this information [on peoples' movements] is being relayed to terrorists..."
Reporter Uzma Tahir, meanwhile, is moving along: "We are seeing another person like this," she says, stopping a person who appears to be a teenage boy: "Tell me, are you a man?" "All praise be to Allah," he responds. "What do you do... are you gay?" He pleads to be allowed to go, but she asks him, "Are you in prostitution?" He responds: "I don't do it." After several questions, he is forced to say he is "personally" that way. She asks him if he has clients and then interrogates him: "What is this attraction between men and men?" She repeatedly asks questions like: "What are tastes, what do men see in you?" And then she tells him: "[What you do] causes AIDS. How many homes are being destroyed? Men leave women and stick to men, they have no interest in women, and marriages break up, all because of this."
She continues: "Don't the religious scholars see this crime? Why are the muftis [Islamic scholars qualified to issue decrees] silent? The law is without legs, and social leaders sit idle." After a break, she goes on: "Who is playing with this nation? This nation has become a victim of foreign conspiracies. Why are men roaming here in the garb of women? As the camera rolls, she runs up behind an individual who appears to be female, shouting: "Catch her, catch her!" As the person tries to escape, the men accompanying the reporter run after and grab her. The reporter demands to know, "How long [have you been doing this?]" "Five-six years," she replies, crying; the reporter continues to hammers her with questions: "How much do you ask? How do you start? You know that this causes disease – You are transmitting this disease...."
Ansar Burney then appears on the screen, saying, "Whoever does this is doing it because this facility of homosexuality is available for up to 50 rupees. But when he returns home after committing a homosexual act and sleeps with his wife, it means that he has transmitted this disease of homosexuality – HIV, AIDS – to his home, destroying his next generations. I congratulate you, Abb Takk, and your team, that you are raising such issues, which trouble us...
Uzma Tahir returns, saying, "This is happening in our culture. I have no difficulty describing this, and whoever wants to, let them criticize me." As the camera focuses on the face of the last person the crew harassed, she adds that gays will go on openly and invite people to sin. "You are not gay," the reporter finally declares.
Moving on to the next segment of her program, reporter Uzma Tahir announces that her team has just received the news that "groups of feminine-looking men are in rented flats where lust-starved customers go...." Together with police, the reporter bursts into a home, as the text "Center of Vulgarity" appears on the screen. In the apartment are four or five people, and she demands to know, "Who among you are gay and who are men?" One of the people, apparently a woman, tells her that one of their number is sick and that she has just returned with medicines. Uzma Tahir insists, "I am asking, are you man or a gay from Allah?" The screen flashes the text: "Hunting man or gay?"
Reporter Uzma Tahir On Pakistani Gays: "Allah Forbid... If Such Children Are Born In Your Family, What You Will Do?"
Reporter Uzma Tahir
It is now 3:00 am, and Uzma Tahir moves on to raid another home. As she waits outside the door, she comments: "By now, they would have put on whatever [clothes]; you get it." The camera crew enter the home, moves up stairs leading to another home where they find a gay person. Tahir again asks similar questions: "Are you a man or a gay?" The crew looks through photo albums and pictures on the wall in the home, as the reporter comments on the "poses" and the "modeling" in them and declares that her team will "be back with apology if they are gays; we are simply checking if they are men." They also rummage through household items seeking clues.
In a short clip, a commentator accuses the gays of "sexual misbehavior," "sexual disbehavior," and "psychological misbehavior." A local policeman, in plainclothes at 3:00 am, is interviewed; he promises that such people in his police district will be caught and brought before the television crew. Uzma Tahir turns to the camera, saying: "When you watch the program, you will know how the magnitude of issue I have presented before you. And after its broadcast, I am prepared for whatever criticisms are directed against me." She appeals to mothers to examine their children so that the "new generations don't go astray."
This is followed by a night raid at another gay home. The accompanying policemen slap the gay people around; inside the bedroom, the residents are asked for their names and then their real names. As the gay person tells the reporter that another man there is under medical treatment, she accuses them of telling "lies" and points to wedding pictures on the wall which she says are better than those of film stars. The reporter makes a point of searching inside the closet, and accuses the gay person of "using" the other man "to fulfil your own needs" and closing his mind, and declares that the man is "not worth anything to anybody now."
Reporting on another aspect of this so-called problem, the reporter notes "a family's irresponsibility, a family having abandoned its son because he is mentally unbalanced." Turing to the audience, the reporter delivers her verdict: "But think, Allah forbid, such things are happening, if such children are born in your family, what you will do?"
Another gay person is asked how gays are different from other people. Several gays are taken away in a police van, brought to a police station, and questioned by a head policemen as to why they are beggars and don't have normal occupations despite being physically empowered by Allah. One gay man tells the cop: "Our soul is like that." But they are slapped by a cop and locked up.
The reporter then tells the camera: "Today's program is a revolutionary slap for the people sitting in the parliament. If this crime is not curbed even now, at the rate this is spreading it will difficult to save our homes too. For God's sake, we appeal to law-enforcement institutions, the judiciary, and social leaders to take practical steps to control this crime."
* Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project (www.memri.org/sasp)
 Zemtv.com, December 15, 2013, accessed December 24, 2013.
 Express.pk (Pakistan), December 23, 2013.