In the age of information warfare mastered by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and military establishment led internet trolls, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been hit by something never seen before ahead of his planned freedom march against the government.
In a series of forged documents posted online and the conversation surrounding it, we see a letter on Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) party’s letterhead seeking permission from the party leadership to perform lawatat, derogatory term literally meaning acts of people of Prophet Lot and interchangeably used to refer to ‘homosexual acts’ during the protest march and the another fake notification from the capital’s administration announcing a crackdown against the planned ‘wave of homosexuality’.
It should be noted though that the it is offensive to compare modern same-sex relationships between two consenting adults to people of Lot because the latter were known rapists and pedophiles and their stories detail how they even raped angels. So technically, ‘lawatat’ is NOT the correct term for homosexual relations, the target of people’s jabs online became the already vulnerable LGBT+ community.
Now this may seem harmless prank, but in the Islamic republic with politically active social media trolls, this is enough to demonise communities and fail a protest march. And this should be obvious from the conversation surrounding these notifications online which we now know are fake.
So what’s the problem with these? The fact that these creative trolls decided to use an already vulnerable and demonised queer community to show their opponents in bad light is telling. In Pakistan, it’s enough to label your opponents homosexual to harm them politically. It’s like referring your opponent ‘like a woman’ to imply weakness — another exttemely problematic trend in Pakistani politics.
But there’s one more thing that’s extremely problematic too and was evident also from some of the conversations: the underlying racism. Pashtuns are often stereotypically portrayed and mocked as people whose men have sex with other men. And so the fact that Fazlur Rehman and most his party members and demonstration participants are Pashtuns, it’s just easier for people with prejudicial attitude to believe this fake document. It’s like killing two birds with one stones; target both homosexuals and Pashtuns with one document — a feat only PTI and military trolls can accomplish.
It should also be noted that Maulana Fazlur Rehman is not a saint either and his entire political career comprise using — or rather, abusing religion for political games. But PTI has stooped to a new low. They have conquered another uncharted territory. But they should know that this is now a fair game. What they are using against others will be used against them tomorrow. You know, kind of like how you used religion against your opponents yesterday but are now screaming because the same is being done to you. And I’ll be here writing another blog post to remind you of it.