Under its veneer of strict social conformity, the country is bustling with same-sex activity. Danyaal, as he's asked to be known, is a something businessman who lives in an affluent part of Karachi, and uses his smartphone to organise Karachi's gay party scene. Back then I found a group and made contact with 12 people in this city," he says.
There are thousands of gay men online in Pakistan at any one time. If you want a relationship, that may be more difficult.
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These invitation-only parties are a rare opportunity for gay men to be open about their sexuality. Pakistani society is fiercely patriarchal. Pakistanis are expected to marry a member of the opposite sex, and the vast majority do. Sex between men occurs in some very public places - including, surprisingly, Karachi's busiest shrine.
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Families go to the Abdullah Shah-Ghazi shrine to honour the holy man buried there and to ask for God's blessings, but it is also Karachi's biggest cruising ground. Every Thursday evening, as the sun sets, men from across the city gather there. A tightly packed circle is formed and those in the centre of the circle are groped by those on the periphery. To outsiders it looks like a writhing mass of men huddling around one another. Some even describe it as a "mysterious religious ceremony". For participants, it's anonymous group sex. Most Pakistanis view homosexuality as sinful.
Homosexuality common in Pakistan but ‘mostly done by straight guys’
The vast majority of clerics interpret the Qoranic story of Lot as a clear indication that God condemns homosexual men. Some scholars go even further and recommend Sharia-based punishment for "men who have sex with men".
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He claims to have slept with more than 3, men during his working life - despite having two wives and eight children. One of his wives, Sumera, wears a burka and the niqab, but she has no objection to her husband's chosen profession and wishes more people would keep an open mind. No problem. If he doesn't work how will the kids eat?
I get angry when people call them names. People are stuck in their ways. Sumera's position may appear surprising, but in fact it's not hard to understand, says Qasim Iqbal. This is often seen as a part of growing up and it can be overlooked by families - it's the idea that 'boys will be boys'," he says. At the end of it all, everyone gets married to a member of the opposite sex and nothing is spoken about. Technically, homosexual acts are illegal in Pakistan.
The British introduced laws criminalising what is described as sex "against the order of nature" in the colonial era. Sharia-based laws dating from the s also lay down punishments for same-sex sexual activity. In practice, though, these laws are rarely enforced, and the issue tends to be dealt with inside the family. When the police wouldn't back down the family asked for one detail to be changed - they wanted their son to be presented as the active sexual partner. For them, their son being passive would be even more shameful.
In almost all cases charges will be dropped, Iqbal says, but the boys will be forced to get married by their families. Just occasionally, though, Pakistani parents do reconcile themselves to children entering a long-term gay relationship. I took the time to talk to her and convince her that I was a good person.
That was first and foremost.
Is Pakistan a gay man’s paradise? | Xtra Magazine
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Provincial officials have ignored repeated calls to crack down on militant groups with a strong presence here, with one senior minister campaigning publicly with members of an extremist group that calls for Shiite Muslims to be killed. Some of the militant groups are allied with the northwest-based Pakistani Taliban, which claimed responsibility for a failed car bombing in New York City last week.
A group based in Punjab, Jaish-e-Mohammed, also has been implicated as having possible links to one of the people detained in Pakistan in connection with the bombing attempt. The head of the Punjab government, Shahbaz Sharif, even asked militants not to attack his province - because he was not following the dictates of the United States to fight them - much to the dismay of the central Pakistani government.
Punjabi militants have won over fellow followers of the Deobandi sect of Islam with their radical religious interpretations and outspoken assaults on minority Shiites. This translates into votes that leaders of radical groups can bring to local politicians on both the right and the left. He said the policy was risky because it sends the wrong signal to Pakistanis who have rallied behind the military in its assault on extremists in the Afghan border areas. In the blisteringly hot central Punjab town of Jhang, the outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, or Guardians of the Friends of the Prophet, has been emboldened by conciliatory signals from local authorities.
Local Pakistan politicians shelter militants
After being courted for votes last March, the group ripped off yellow government seals and reopened its offices. Their distinctive green, black and white striped flags fly defiantly atop homes and mosques. The maze of narrow streets in Jhang is littered with graffiti in support of the SSP, even though then-President Pervez Musharraf banned the organization in Just a few miles kilometers from the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore is the headquarters of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is banned in Pakistan, India, the United States and other countries but is now under provincial government protection.
India blames Lashkar-e-Taiba for the deadly attacks in Mumbai and routinely harangues Pakistan for allowing its leader, Hafiz Saeed, to remain free. Pakistani authorities point to its courts, which have repeatedly said there is not enough evidence to hold him. And in the southern Punjab city of Bawahalpur is the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the group possibly linked to a suspect in the Times Square bombing case.
Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, who is in charge of enforcing the law in Punjab province, defended his decision to campaign alongside members of the Sipah-e-Sahaba group in March. The minister said the organization represents thousands of votes and cannot be ignored.
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