Some Pakistanis gathered for vigils to remember and honor the victims of the recent terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, defying Taliban militants and other jihadists in their country who revile the LGBT community as abhorrent to Islam.
Pakistanis held at least two vigils in solidarity with the 49 massacred victims — one in Lahore and the other in Karachi, according to two pictures disseminated by Getty Images.
“Pakistani civil society activists carry placards during a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting in Florida, in Lahore on June 14, 2016,” notes the caption for one of the images. “The assault, which left 50 people dead including the shooter, is the worst mass shooting in modern US history, and has triggered an outpouring of grief but also defiance in the gay and lesbian community in the United States and around the world.”
“Pakistani young supporters of [the] Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) light candles in Karachi on June 14, 2016, to pay tribute for the victims of the Orlando shooting in Florida,” says the description of the other image. “Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others wounded when a heavily armed gunman opened fire and seized hostages at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — the worst terror attack on US soil since September 11, 2001.”
Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen of Afghan descent, has been identified as the jihadist behind the June 12 carnage scene at the LGBT nightclub in Orlando, which has been deemed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.
MQM is a secular party in Pakistan, the fourth-largest in the country, and it reportedly controls Karachi. The party has been outspoken in criticizing radical Islamic terrorist groups that operate in Pakistan and has presented itself as an ally of the West. It has been targeted by the Pakistani Taliban.
MQM organized the gathering in Karachi to pay tribute to the slain Orlando victims, the majority of whom were members of the LGBT community.
In an Urdu-language press release highlighting the candlelight vigil, MQM notes that the demonstration was held in “memory of the innocent victims of terrorism in the United States.”
The party stands in “full solidarity with the American people and the families of the victims,” it adds.
MQM founder and leader Altaf Hussain strongly condemned the Orlando massacre in a separate statement.
He also accused Pakistan of serving as “one of the safe havens for ISIS, Al-Qaida, [the] Taliban” and other jihadist groups, adding that “most of their terror activities were devised and exported from there.”
The Taliban, both in its Afghan and Pakistani incarnations, is currently operating in Pakistan along wth ISIS. Despite their differences, the Sunni groups share a strong anti-LGBT Islamic ideology.
Both the Taliban and ISIS have meted out brutal death sentences for homosexual behavior. Homosexuality has also been criminalized in Pakistan, and it is punished with prison sentences ranging from 2 years to life.
However, the New York Times notes that the law is not always enforced, noting that the reality “more akin to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ than a state-sponsored witch hunt.”
As some Pakistanis were gathering to honor the Orlando victims, others took to the streets to angrily protest the latest shooting of a transgender activist.
Pakistani “officials are accused of turning a blind eye to a surge in violence against the marginalized community,” reports The Telegraph.
“Transgenders appear to be facing some of the worst attacks,” it adds. “Activists say 45 transgender people have been killed in the northern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) region in the past two years.”
Although the protests made headlines across Pakistan, the country’s media largely ignored the vigils organized to remember the victims of the massacre at the gay Orlando nightclub.
Meanwhile, the Ummat newspaper in Pakistan, described as the equivalent of the Daily Mail or New York Post, cheered the massacre with a headline that says, “Afghan Youth Roasts 50 Americans.”
Pakistan newspaper celebrates #OrlandoShooting. Main headline screams:
“Afghan youth ROASTS fifty Americans”
— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) 13 June 2016
The news outlet blamed the attack on the FBI in a separate article.
BREAKING: Pakistani newspaper claims U.S. hand behind Orlando Massacre by Omar Mateen. Alleges FBI involved in crime pic.twitter.com/VdEYQYLak2
— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) 13 June 2016
Although the governments of many Muslim countries condemned the attack, Pakistan appears to be the only one that hosted any sort of demonstration in honor of the Orlando victims.