Perched on the foothills of the Margallas, the shrine of Bari Imam overlooks the village of Noorpur Shahan on the outskirts of Islamabad.
A fetid stream, blackened with sewage, cuts through the ramshackle clutter of houses that make up this once picturesque settlement.
Noorpur Shahan is also home to a small transgender community, who live off the economy of the shrine, which attracts thousands of visitors each year.
“We are not welcome in nicer neighbourhoods, even if we can afford the rent, we are turned away. This neighbourhood is very poor and most residents are illegal squatters,” says transgender activist Nadeem Kashish, introducing the neighbourhood.
Kashish sits on a steel charpoy in his home in Noorpur Shahan. He is dressed in a men’s button down shirt and jeans and prefers to be identified by the male pronoun.
His modest room, painted in pastel colours, is kept immaculately tidy. Kashish is surrounded by some friends from the transgender community and television reporters who have gathered to interview him.
He runs the Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights (Safar) and has been in the news lately, for plans to build a transgender friendly mosque.
Pakistan’s trans community routinely faces discrimination and violence, and is also not entirely welcome in mosques.
It’s not just Pakistan; the Saudi government also recently stated that transgender persons would not be issued visas to travel to Saudi Arabia for Umrah and Hajj.
“While we are welcome in shrines and Imambargahs, we face resistance in trying to enter mosques. When we do go to mosques, we do so discreetly, wearing men’s clothing. It feels wrong, almost fraudulent,” explains Kashish.