Women candidates from FATA invaluable pioneers: daily

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Islamabad, April 3 (IANS) Changes in Pakistani culture “go wide and deep”, a daily said Wednesday while lauding the courage of two women who will contest the upcoming parliamentary election from the country’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

No woman has ever stood for parliament or a provincial assembly from FATA.

“It will have taken considerable courage on the part of Badam Zari who is from the Bajaur agency and Nusrat Begum from the adjoining Lower Dir district to put their names forward,” said an editorial in the News International Wednesday.

They are standing as independent candidates and have no known mainstream party affiliations.

“The reaction to this news has ranged from the incredulous to the profoundly sceptical. The chances of either woman winning a seat are …small, but their candidacy is the clearest indicator that changes in Pakistani culture go wide and deep.

“Both women have said that they want to bring change in their areas, where female literacy is as low as three percent and women have almost no public presence – confined to their homes by culture and custom,” said the daily.

The editorial pointed out that during the 2008 elections, women were actively prevented from voting, and there are no women Returning Officers (ROs) in FATA or any provision of spaces where women can vote separately.

“There will be powerful resistance to this move by many – probably most – of the men in the area and both women are certainly at risk of physical harm at a minimum or even death. Both have said that they have placed their faith in God to provide them with physical security – as well they might because the state is unlikely to offer them any protection whatsoever.”

The daily said that the campaign of the two women are “likely to be followed closely around the world in the course of an election that is already throwing up surprises”.

“Not only are these women making a historic move, they are making it in the equally historic context of the organisation of political parties in FATA for the first time.

“The faintest zephyrs of the winds of change are evident, and never has the country needed them more. Besides protecting these invaluable pioneers, we must all salute them first,” it added.

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