Over 75 people including Mission Officers, U.S. military representatives, foreign diplomats, and leaders of Pakistani LGBT advocacy groups attended what has been described as the first ever LBGT pride celebration on June 26 hosted by the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The event was hosted by the Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland and members of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFFA), according to a media statement posted on the embassy's website.
The statement read: "This gathering demonstrated continued U.S. Embassy support for human rights, including LGBT rights, inPakistan at a time when those rights are increasingly under attack from extremist elements throughout Pakistani society.
"In formal remarks, the Chargé underscored President Obama’s May 31, 2011 GLBT Pride Proclamation that, 'we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.'
"Addressing the Pakistani LGBT activists, the Chargé, while acknowledging that the struggle for GLBT rights in Pakistan is still beginning, said: 'I want to be clear: the U.S. Embassy is here to support you and stand by your side every step of the way.'"
The news of the meeting has meanwhile attracted the ire of conservative Islamic groups including one that includes the head of Pakistan's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, deeming the event the second most dangerous attack by the U.S. against Pakistan, following missiles fired from unmanned drones, reported the Associated Press.
The group described the US Embassy's support of gay rights in Pakistan as "cultural terrorism" against the country. "Such people are the curse of society and social garbage," said the statement issued by the Islamic officials on Sunday. "They don't deserve to be Muslim or Pakistani, and the support and protection announced by the U.S. administration for them is the worst social and cultural terrorism against Pakistan."
Pakistan's Nation newspaper on July 4 in a report titled "American Embassy stirs hornet’s nest in Islamabad" took political leaders to task for refusing to condemn or comment on the event and urged the government to seek an explanation from the "higher authorities in the US Embassy."
The report read: "The US Embassy’s involvement in the event at a time of rising anti-American sentiments in country has widely been condemned by the masses."
It also quoted a social activist, Mumtaz Naqvi, as saying: "Why would the US like to court a few engaged in an activity considered immoral in the country at the cost of the majority and then complain about Pakistanis being hostile to them. It must realise and respect laws of Pakistan which do not allow gay marriages and celebration at all."
Homosexual acts are illegal in Pakistan under Section 377 of the country's penal code although homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned. The law prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and provides for a fine and/or imprisonment for a period of two years to life. Under the country's Sharia law, which was introduced in 1990, homosexual acts are punishable by whipping, imprisonment, or death, according to a report published by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.