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PESHAWAR: Stressing the need to ensure active participation of the transgender community in the upcoming elections, the All Pakistan Transgender Election Network (APTEN) on Wednesday urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take pragmatic measures to remove hurdles in the way of their participation and to provide security in case of the possibility of election violence.

The members of the network condemned harassment of transgender politicians looking to contest the election. They said that a total of 12 transgender persons in the country had submitted their nomination papers. So far, the ECP has cleared the nomination papers of five aspiring candidates, while the papers of the remaining contenders are being scrutinised.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Peshawar Press Club, APTEN focal person and candidate from NA-144 (Okara) Nayab Ali said they had asked the ECP to include specific columns for the transgender community in the nomination forms, but their request had not been accepted. She was joined by Trans Action Alliance Khyber Pakhtunkhwa president Farzana Jan, transgender rights activist Qamar Naseem, Nadeem Khaish, a candidate from PP-53 Islamabad, Lubna Lal, a candidate from PP-26 Jhelum, Naina, a candidate from PP-77 Sargodha, and others.

Activists ask political parties to think beyond gender binary approaches and include transgender community in election manifestos

Ms Ali demanded an end to impunity for acts of election-based violence, whether committed by state or non-state actors, and punishment for all forms of violence and discrimination, including targeting persons based on their gender identities and expressions.

Members of the transgender community, she said, had not been counted as voters. She added that this was sheer injustice and a violation of their fundamental rights. The contender from Okara demanded effective legislation to ensure acceptance of the transgender community and to provide them necessary facilities at public institutions across the country.

She also expressed concern over the heavy amount of fee charged to submit nomination papers to contest the election — Rs30,000 for those contesting from National Assembly constituencies and Rs20,000 from candidates contesting on provincial assembly seats. She termed the amount unjust and said that many in the transgender community could not afford the heavy fee.

Ms Ali suggested that the government allocate reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies for the transgender community, and regretted that mainstream political parties had ignored the transgender community in their manifestos. She condemned the reported harassment of Rani, a transgender from Haripur, after she had received a ticket to contest the election.

Nayab Ali, who is contesting the election on a ticket of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Gulalai’s party from NA-144, Okara, vowed they would fully participate in the electoral process despite odds. She said a transgender political party would be announced after the general election, adding that this would be the first party of its kind in the country, if not the world.

The aspiring lawmaker said that she wanted the government to provide her security during the campaign because it would be a major challenge competing against influential candidates.

Earlier, transgender rights activist Qamar Naseem presented the manifesto of APTEN and asked the interim government and the ECP to protect the transgender community’s fundamental and constitutional rights.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2018