At first glance, the PQM’s flag looks like that of any political party. It proudly displays the star and crescent against a rainbow-hued spectrum of reds, purples and blues, depicting a Pakistan that is not simply green and white, but capable of embracing all shades of being and behaviour. But this isn’t the flag of a political party and the acronym PQM stands for the Pakistan Queer Movement, not — as some may imagine — the Pakistan Qaumi Mahaz.
The brainchild of 18-year-old Nuwas Manto, the PQM, in its own words, seeks “respect, equality and freedoms for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Pakistan.”
“It depends on what you think a movement is,” says Manto, when asked to explain what the PQM aspires to achieve. “You won’t see us marching in pink underwear, for instance. What we are working towards is something like the Progressive Writers’ Movement who aspire to bring about a mental state of change through writing.”
Writing is something Nuwas Manto does a lot of, whether in publications like the Pink Pages or through Facebook on the PQM official page where free-spirited individuals, ‘queer’ or not, discuss the nuances of sexuality openly. Extremely well-read for his 18 years, he is fond of citing the poetry of Abu Nuwas, from whom the first part of his alias is derived. A controversial Arab poet, Abu Nuwas (750-810 AD) lived during the reign of Caliph Haroon al Rashid and caused no end of scandal due to his poems celebrating homosexuality. As a nod to his literary tastes, the second part of his alias is a tribute to Saadat Hassan Manto.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 30th, 2011.
Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3PE30VeGyo on Youtube for an audio-visual experience of this topic.