Two tribal women to contest polls for first time in Pakistan

4/02/2013
Two women from Pakistan's restive northwest have made history by becoming the first tribal women to file nomination papers for the May 11 parliamentary polls.

Forty-year-old Badam Zari filed nomination papers for a National Assembly constituency in the restive Bajaur tribal region yesterday while Nusrat Begum plans to contest elections from Lower Dir, a tribal district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

While an increasing number of women are taking part in politics in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, it is almost unheard of for women to be part of electioneering in the conservative tribal belt, where several militant groups are active.

In the past, several tribes have even barred their women from voting in polls in the tribal belt. Asad Sarwar, the Returning Officer for Bajaur Agency, told the media that Badam Zari had filed nomination papers for National Assembly seat number 44.

Bajaur Agency has two seats in the lower house of parliament. Zari said she was contesting the polls in order to work for the welfare of tribal women.

"I want to work for the betterment of women in the tribal area, especially Bajaur Agency, which has suffered immensely in the tribal system," she told the Dawn newspaper.

No lawmaker from the tribal areas had ever raised the issues of women in the National Assembly, she said. Zari said she was not scared of anything or anyone and was determined to contest the polls because this was her "constitutional and religious right".

She said she would launch her campaign soon. Nusrat Begum, a district vice-president of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, told reporters she would contest the polls as an independent candidate because her party had allotted a ticket to another candidate.

"All the people who won from the constituency in the past did nothing for people's betterment," she said. If she is elected, she would work to provide basic amenities to people, especially women, children and minorities, she said.

Pakistan will go to the polls on May 11 to choose a new 342-member National Assembly and four Provincial Assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Musharraf recently flew into Karachi from Dubai after nearly four years in self-exile and has said he will lead his All Pakistan Muslim League in the polls, which will mark the first democratic transition in the country's history.

In Rawalpindi, bookies are focusing on National Assembly seat 55 as the parliamentarian elected from this constituency is considered the main leader of the district.

There is a likelihood that a senior leader of the PML-N will take on former minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed in this constituency. On the other hand, the Pakistan People's Party is facing problems in finding a suitable candidate for the constituency.

A group of bookies based in Hati Chowk, Raja Bazaar, Mukha Singh Estate, Mohanpura and Ratta Amral are also taking bets on the constituency.

Mohammad Babar from Ratta Amral, who is involved in the betting, said if a person stakes Rs 100, he would get Rs 130 on winning a bet.

"It is probably the only unlawful activity which is carried out in a most honest way and the money is handed over to the person without any hurdle," he said.
Ali Abbas, a punter, said the betting rate for PPP candidates was not good as people expect the party would fail to impact the politics of Rawalpindi.
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