Begum Nawazish Ali Running For Parliament in Pakistan

So, there was a big article in the New York Times recently (thanks, TechnophobicGeek) about how Indian TV is supposedly entering this golden age of innovative programming. Some of the shows mentioned have actually been talked about before at Sepia Mutiny, including "Galli Galli Sim Sim." There's also an interesting segment on a new reality show oriented to teenagers, called "Dhoom Machao Dhoom," about four girls who want to start a band. One of them is a "returned" ABCD from New York, which makes for interesting drama when she says they should write their own songs instead of just doing Bollywood numbers (the other girls refuse, saying "Only Bollywood works here").

Anyway, it's a decent read, but it strikes me that Indian TV remains a narrow-minded backwater as long as Pakistan has Begum Nawazish Ali. Via 3 Quarks Daily, I came across a new profile at MSNBC of Pakistan's famous celebrity drag queen and talk show host. Among other things, the Begum freely admits her "bisexuality," though I'm not sure she means it the way we might think she means it. (Venial Sin, as you may remember, wasn't thrilled about her performance: "I mean, kudos to Begum Nawazish Ali for getting to pull a tranny routine on TV, but how necessary is it to reiterate the stereotypes of a gay man as an effeminate 'woman stuck in a male body' or as a hijra?")

But now comes the news that she plans to run for Pakistani Parliament:

Then Saleem dropped a bombshell. "You are the first person I am announcing this to, but I have decided to file my papers for the upcoming general elections," he exclaimed. "I am going to run for a parliamentary seat as an independent from all over Pakistan and I am going to campaign as Begum Nawazish Ali!" The note of triumph and excitement in his voice is unmistakable.

"I want to be the voice of the youth and for all of Pakistan," he continued. "The idea was always to break barriers and preconceived notions, of gender, identity, celebrity and politics and to bring people closer. In any case, I think Begum Nawazish Ali is the strongest woman in Pakistan!"

Whether Pakistanis agree or not, the elections at the end of the year are likely to be one of the most uproarious in recent times. (link)

Interesting -- we'll see if her political career (is she really serious?) is going to be as groundbreaking as her showbiz career has been.

There are many theories about how it is the Begum can get away with it in conservative Pakistan. She's been careful not to be crude in the Dame Edma vein, but still -- there are some serious social taboos being transgressed here. What do you think?

In case you're wondering what the fuss is about, I might recommend this 10 minute Youtube clip of the Begum doing her thing. The jokes are corny, but the sari and make-up are exquisite.