Saturday, March 3, 2018

Hindu Dalit Woman Elected to Pakistan Senate

Krishna Kumari Kohli today made history by becoming the first-ever Hindu Dalit woman Senator in the upper house of Pakistan, according to media reports.  Her election represents a major milestone for women and minority rights in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Pakistan Senator Krishna Kumari Kohli

Once a bonded laborer, the 39-year-old Kohli from rural Sindh was elected to a Senate seat reserved for minorities. She was nominated by the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Senator Krishan Kumari Kohli: 

Kohli, was born in Nagarparkar village in the Thar desert region to a poor Hindu Dalit peasant family in 1979. She and her family were held as bonded labor for at least three years in a jail run by a landlord when Kohli was a child. Married at the age of 16,  Kohli still pursued a masters degree in sociology from the Sindh University.  Kohli now works for minority rights, especially those related to girls' education.

Thar Development:

Thar, one of the least developed regions of Pakistan, is seeing unprecedented development activity in energy and infrastructure projects.  New roads, airports and buildings are being built along with coal mines and power plants as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There are construction workers and machinery visible everywhere in the desert. Among the key beneficiaries of this boom are Thari Hindu women who are being employed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) as part of the plan to employ locals. Highlighted in recent news reports are two Hindu women in particular: Kiran Sadhwani, an engineer and Gulaban, a truck driver.

Kiran Sadhwani, a Thari Hindu Woman Engineer. Source: Express Tribune

Thar Population:

The region has a population of 1.6 million. Most of the residents are cattle herders. Majority of them are Hindus.  The area is home to 7 million cows, goats, sheep and camel. It provides more than half of the milk, meat and leather requirement of the province. Many residents live in poverty. They are vulnerable to recurring droughts.  About a quarter of them live where the coal mines are being developed, according to a report in The Wire.

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters

Some of them are now being employed in development projects.  A recent report talked of an underground coal gasification pilot project near the town of Islamkot where "workers sourced from local communities rested their heads after long-hour shifts".

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters 

In the first phase, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is relocating 5 villages that are located in block II.  SECMC is paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land.

SECMC’s chief executive officer, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, says his company "will construct model towns with all basic facilities including schools, healthcare, drinking water and filter plants and also allocate land for livestock grazing,” according to thethirdpole.net He says that the company is paying villagers above market prices for their land – Rs. 185,000 ($ 1,900) per acre.

Hindu Women Employment:

Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), the largest contractor working in Thar desert coal project, has committed itself to hiring locals wherever possible.

When SECMC launched its Female Dump Truck Driver Program near the town of Islamkot in Thar,  Kiran Sadhwani, a female engineer, visited several villages to motivate women to apply for the job and empower themselves, according to Express Tribune newspaper. “Not all women who are working as dumper drivers are poor or in dire need of money. It is just that they want to work and earn a living for themselves and improve the lives of their families,” she told the paper.

SEMC is hiring 30 women truck drivers for its Thar projects, according to Dawn newspaper.

Summary:

Krishna Kumari Kohli today made history by becoming the first-ever Hindu Dalit woman Senator in the upper house of Pakistan, according to media reports.  Her election represents a major milestone for women and minority rights in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Beyond the symbolic election of Senator Kohli, it is good to see that Thar development boom is empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving. These pioneering women will inspire and empower young girls to pursue their dreams in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Working Women Seeding a Silent Revolution in Pakistan

Thar Development Boom in Pakistan

Abundant, Cheap Coal Power for Pakistan

Fact-Checking Farahnaz Ispahani's Claims on Pakistani Minorities

Pakistani Hindu Population Fastest Growing in the World

Recurring Droughts in Pakistan

Thar Drought: Pre-cursor to Dust Bowl in Pakistan?

Campaign of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt About CPEC

10 comments:

Z Basha Jr said...

Riaz sb i see subtle shift in your postings these days? You no longer seem to agree with two nation theory ? Is this a good trend?

Anonymous said...

So proud ofor Ms. Konline as well as of Pakistan.

Time to fulfill Jinnah's promise, you may go to mosque or temple.....

Zamir

19640909rk said...

Riaz Bhai, these are all Hindu women (I consider them Indian women who are unfortunate to have been stuck in Pakistan). Hindu women in my opinion are more hard working and diligent than men. Where are Muslim women examples.

Riaz Haq said...

19640909rk : "these are all Hindu women (I consider them Indian women who are unfortunate to have been stuck in Pakistan)."


The Hindu women mentioned in the post are every bit as Pakistani as other Pakistani men or women.

They are not "stuck in Pakistan"


Some of them are doing much better than Dalit and other Hindu women in India.


Read more about women in Pakistan here: http://www.riazhaq.com/2018/02/pakistani-woman-saadia-zahidi-leads.html

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's first #Hindu #Dalit #woman #Senator Krishna Kumari Kohli : ‘My first priority is health, education of Thari women’

https://www.dawn.com/news/1395331/living-colours-my-first-priority-is-health-education-of-thari-women

In the third grade, Krishna Kumari Kohli was held captive in a private jail with her family for three years in rural Sindh. At 16, she was married. Ms Kohli became the first Hindu Dalit woman to be elected to the Senate. Also known as Kishoo Bai, Ms Kohli was elected on a reserved seat on a PPP ticket. Prior to becoming a senator, she was an activist in a village in Nagarparkar.

Dawn caught up with her in Islamabad and talked about her struggle for her rights of the people of Tharparkar.

Q: How were you able to continue your studies after you were married?

A: My husband, Lal Chand, was 19 at the time of our marriage and he too was studying in Hyderabad, and my in-laws also supported girls’ education.

It so happened that my sister-in-law was a doctor in a community of two million, so I had all the support. The only issue was that I moved into a joint family, so in addition to my studies I had to take care of my ailing in-laws and do other household work as well. My biggest issue was time management; my home was in Mirpurkhas and my college in Hyderabad.

Q: You have worked on various social and community issues as an activist. How do you see yourself bringing a change sitting in the Senate?

A: My brother Veerji Kohli is a licensed lawyer and has been fighting cases of bonded labour, rape, domestic violence and other social community-based issues. He has been implicated in many false cases by the feudals of our area, but nothing has stopped him or me from continuing our struggle.

We work together, and I will act as a bridge between his struggle for the people of Tharparkar and the Senate. I have worked with my family in the lands of village landlords, I have been a victim of bonded labour, I have seen minor girls raped and marginalised communities in our area suffer the wrath of feudal lords – not to mention forced conversions of minorities in Sindh. So my agenda is very focused for my term in Senate.

Q: What inspired you to become a voice of your community and rise against feudalism, knowing the consequences?

A: My brother and I attended the Mehergarh Youth Leadership Camp in 2007. Mehergarh is a centre for learning in the area of human rights in Pakistan. They organise annual camps to promote peace and harmony, which draw participants from across the country, from all religious and a range of backgrounds.

I am proud to say that it served as a catalyst. I am not the same person anymore. I made a commitment to myself that I have to speak, I have to rise and I have to deliver.

Q: What will be the first agenda you will introduce as senator?

A: The right to basic health and education for the women of Tharparkar. My first and foremost priority is health and education for the people of Thar, and in particular the women of Tharparkar.

Our area is deprived of basic education and health facilities. For ailing mothers and children, the only hope of survival is the Mithi District Hospital, approximately 150 kilometres away.

The lack of dispensaries, basic health units and meagre supply of emergency medicines result in deaths of newborns and their malnourished expectant mothers. Pre-birth deaths, lack of hospital facilities, medical centres and schools for girls’ education are nonexistent in Thar. We have to travel miles and miles.

Ancient Pakistan said...

Please refrain from calling Pakistani Hindus by "caste". Mrs. Kholi has already publicly remarked that calling her a "Dalit" is a equal to cursing her. Hindus from the Indus Valley don't follow the Puranas and Manusmiriti, which are Gangetic texts. Hindus from the Indus Valley (ie. Pakistan) follow mostly Vedic tradition from the Rig Vedas, which forbides caste. This is the majority of Hindus in Pakistan (from Sindh) do not follow caste system. This is also why most Hindus in Pakistan bury there dead and eat beef as well, because Vedas do not forbid it.

I suggest you follow the page "Ancient Pakistan" and read the article "What is the difference between Pakistani Hindus and Indian Hindus". It's a wonderful comparison and really explains the differences using the Vedas as reference.

Thank you.

https://www.facebook.com/AncientPakistan.pk/posts/1814928355233807

Riaz Haq said...

Three minority candidates elected on general seats in Pakistan

https://www.geo.tv/latest/205200-three-minority-candidates-elected-on-general-seats-in-pakistan

For the first time in Pakistan's history, three minority candidates were elected on general seats in the National Assembly and the Sindh Assembly.

People voting in favour of these candidates shows that the people of Sindh have rejected the politics of hate, and elected people regardless of their religion.

Interestingly, all three candidates were contesting on the ticket of Pakistan Peoples Party.

It is pertinent to note that majority of the Hindu voters reside in Sindh, of which 40% live in two districts; Umerkot and Tharparkar.

Here's a list of the three candidates who have been voted by the people of Sindh:

Mahesh Kumar Malani

Pakistan Peoples Party's Mahesh Kumar Malani clinched victory in the NA-222 constituency of Tharparkar after securing 106,630 votes.

On the other hand, his main competitor Arbab Zakaullah managed to secure only 87,261 votes.

Hari Ram

PPPP's Hari Ram was proven to be victorious in PS-147 Mirpurkhas 1 constituency after securing 33,201 votes.

His competitor from Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Mujeeb Ul Haque, secured 23,506 votes.

Giyanoo Mal

PPPP's Giyanoo Mal secured victory in PS-81 constituency of Jamshoro after getting a total of 34,927.

Independent candidate Malik Changez Khan was the runner-up after securing 26,975 in the said constituency.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani woman of #African ancestry makes history as the first Sheedi elected to #SindhAssembly. #Pakistan #PakistanElection2018 https://www.dawn.com/news/1423754

Among many firsts that have recently been introduced in the country’s parliamentary politics — many of them are credited to the Pakistan Peoples Party — Tanzeela Qambrani is another soothing addition to the list for being the first Sindhi Sheedi woman to be part of the provincial legislature.


In Sindh’s society where its inhabitants with ancestry entrenched in Africa are still being discriminated against in various forms and manifestation, Tanzeela is no exception. She received her own share of prejudice from the society dominated by feudal class.

A postgraduate in computer science from the University of Sindh, Tanzeela, 39, is the first Sheedi who has returned to the Sindh Assembly on the PPP’s quota of reserved seats for women.

“This is a bold step (getting a Sheedi elected to Sindh Assembly) that required courage which no one but the son of Benazir Bhutto could do and he did it,” said Tanzeela, a mother of three, while speaking to Dawn.

It was not the first time that her party had tried to give her an elevated elected post. The PPP had nominated her to head the municipal committee in Matli in Badin district, which, “some influential people also from the PPP could not digest”.

An influential PPP member went against the party’s discipline and competed for the chairman’s post as an independent member. He got some other members on his back and got elected. The party challenged his election, but the election commission upheld it.

Tanzeela has the name which has great similarity with the country from where her great-grandparents had been brought to the southern coastline of Sindh.

“My father told us that his grandparents had been brought to Sindh now around a century ago from Tanzania,” she said.

“That’s why,” she said, “one of my sisters is married of in Tanzania”.

“Before this day,” said Tanzeela choked with emotions, “we, the Sheedi community, still were on the unending stairs of a ship. Today, it seems we have found the land after centuries of ordeal”.

With black complexion, big nose, curly hair and thick lips, Tanzeela would wear jeans and headscarf and “many of students would consider me as a Sudanese” and not many of them would pass pleasant comment about her in Sindhi.

She, however, said despite prejudices not everyone she came across outside the Sheedi community was a foe.

“Many kind souls came across me and they helped a great deal and the greatest example of it is our chairman Bilawal Bhutto,” she said.

Tanzeela’s father was a lawyer and mother got retired as a school headmistress.

“But, Mohammad Siddique Musafir, a great Sindhi Sheedi writer and teacher, was the real hero who taught many of us to live respectably.”

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - #Pakistan's first lawmaker of #African descent raises hopes for #Sidi community. Sidis descended from #slaves brought to #India from East #Africa by #Portuguese. Their ancestors were also soldiers, traders, pearl divers, #Muslim pilgrims. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-45099970

Pakistan is set to have its first ever lawmaker of African descent, raising the profile of a small and mostly poor community that has been in the region for centuries.

Tanzeela Qambrani, 39, was nominated by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to a women's reserved seat in the regional parliament of southern Sindh province.

She hopes her nomination after last month's election will help wash away the stigma attached to the Sidi community, the local name for the ethnic African population concentrated in the coastal regions of Makran and Sindh.

"As a tiny minority lost in the midst of local populations, we have struggled to preserve our African roots and cultural expression, but I look forward to the day when the name Sidi will evoke respect, not contempt," Ms Qambrani, whose ancestors came from Tanzania, told the BBC.

Many Sidis are believed to be descended from slaves brought to India from East Africa by the Portuguese. Historians say their ancestors were also soldiers, traders, pearl divers and Muslim pilgrims.

They enjoyed senior positions during the Mughal empire but faced discrimination under British colonial rule.

Estimates put their population in Pakistan in the tens of thousands. They are well-integrated but keep alive some traditions, including an annual festival that blends Islamic mysticism, crocodiles and singing in a blend of Swahili and a local language called Baluchi.

Sidi communities also live in the Indian states of Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

The Sidis dominate the Lyari district of Karachi and have been staunch supporters of the PPP, now chaired by Benazir Bhutto's son, Bilawal Zardari Bhutto.

However, no Sidi had ever made it to parliament until Mr Bhutto Zardari nominated Ms Qambrani for the reserved seat.

"Just as Columbus discovered America, Bilawal has discovered Sidis," said Ms Qambrani, whose great-grandparents came to Sindh from Tanzania.

The PPP came third in the recent general election, which was won by former cricketer Imran Khan's PTI party. However the PPP again won the most seats in the Sindh provincial assembly.

Can Imran Khan change Pakistan?
Ms Qambrani, a computer science postgraduate with three children, hails from the coastal area of Badin. Her father, Abdul Bari, was a lawyer while her mother is a retired school teacher.

Her family has kept its African connections alive; one of her sisters was married in Tanzania, while another has a husband from Ghana.

"When my sister married a Ghanaian husband, local youths and guests from Ghana put on such a show in our neighbourhood," she said.

"They danced those typical Sidi steps to the Mogo drumbeat which they say comes from Ghana but which we've traditionally played in our homes. You couldn't tell a Sidi dancer apart from an African."

Riaz Haq said...

The minority women taking on Pakistan's political elite to campaign for better health

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/15/minority-women-taking-pakistans-political-elite-campaign-better/

hen Sunita Parmar Menghwar became frustrated at the lack of health care, water and education in her corner of Pakistan, she had little hope existing politicians would improve things.

Believing her community had been neglected and betrayed by the political elite, she decided instead to take matters into her own hands, and stand for election herself.

For people like Mrs Parmar, Pakistan's politics is not an easy world to enter.

As well as a Hindu woman in a country that is 96 per cent Muslim, she is also one of Pakistan's 40 so-called scheduled castes – those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy who are known in neighbouring India as dalits, or untouchables.

In a country where politics is often the preserve of a dynastic elite or the sport of feudal landowners, to contest an open seat as a minority woman is almost unheard of.

Undaunted, the 39-year-old from Tharparkar last month joined a handful of women from similar castes and religious minorities elsewhere in the country, trying to get elected onto Pakistan's provincial or national assemblies.

While their numbers were small and none of the independent candidates were elected, the very fact they even stood, often to improve health and education, has been described as a milestone by campaigners.

“I took this stand for the people of Tharparkar, for the people of my ‘status’,” she told the Telegraph.

“Because they don’t have representatives to voice their concerns. Thar has always been ruled by the feudal class, but they have given us nothing. They only visit us during election time to collect votes. They give money in exchange for votes, and people accept it out of greed. And then they leave.”

“Our people don’t realise the importance of their vote – they sell themselves. The people of Thar do not have roads, water to drink, hospitals, schools – the basic necessities of life.”

Pakistan's minorities have this year seen the first election of a female, scheduled caste Hindu senator, Krishna Kumari Kohli. At the time of her election she vowed to work for the “empowerment of women, their health, and education”.

Pakistan's assembly has 70 seats reserved for minorities and women, but the general election also saw the first election of a Hindu politician to a general seat, Mahesh Kumar Malan.

Seema Maheshwari, a human rights activist in Sindh, said the fact many of the 10 minority women had stood for general seats as independents in the rural parts of the province or in the port of Karachi was a “sea change”.

She said it was sign of growing confidence among women. She said: “We can see that not only male persons, but also female persons can stand. Women think they are adults, they are citizens, they are also human beings.”

Basic healthcare, clean water and education were often the core of their election demands.

The Thar desert in Sindh province is one of the most deprived parts of the country and its residents are largely Hindu.

Mrs Parmar, a university graduate from the local city of Mithi, said: “In particular, I would like to open a hospital that has a gynecology department, with all the equipment and tools for delivery, so women don’t have to travel far. The way it is in other places. Many women die during child birth.