Shakira and Sawira…two Pakistanis contesting elections for the first time

Islamabad- Although Pakistani women have entered politics a long time ago, they still face many barriers to entering the field in some areas, especially in tribal areas or what are known as “Federally Administered Territories in Pakistan”. Where border conflicts and extremist weapons proliferation occur. Groups are common. and conservative ideas, such as the Pakistani Taliban.

Although women in some of these areas do not have the right to elect and vote, in other areas and during recent years, some areas have provided examples of women participating in Pakistani elections, regardless of gender. seats or general seats, and this subsequently constituted an incentive for other women to contest elections. This is considered a major change in these areas, and the upcoming Pakistani elections, scheduled to be held on Thursday, February 8, will see instances of women contesting elections in their areas for the first time.

One of the candidates in Pakistani elections.  She is a Hindu candidate representing Pakistan Peoples Party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Saveera Prakash, of Hindu religion, says she has lived her entire life in Benner without facing any discrimination (Al Jazeera)

hindu candidate

Dr. Sawira Prakash is considered to be the first woman to contest a general election on behalf of the Pakistan People's Party in the Banir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in north-western Pakistan, where she competes for the regional general seat. Parishad, but she is also considered a minority because, apart from being young, she practices Hinduism, which is happening for the first time, at least in that area.

Dr. Prakash has been associated with the Pakistan People's Party since childhood, following the footsteps of her father, who is considered one of the foremost political and social activists in the region. He completed his studies in General Medicine in 2022.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Prakash said that she was shocked when she learned that she was the first minority woman to run for herself, adding that she had not realized that any minority woman had ever run for office. had not competed before, and said that although there are movements that prevent women from voting, and given the difficulty of competing in elections, there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from day one, with everyone in her community supporting her. Are supporting.

Prakash also confirmed that he never felt that he was a minority, and he spent his entire life in Benar without facing any discrimination on the basis of religion. He said this was one of his most important goals when he decided to contest the elections. The general election was about empowering women and empowering the youth, and he focused on the development of his constituency through infrastructure development.

Pakistani candidate Shakira Shinwari
Shakira Shinwari hopes her involvement in politics has inspired other women to consider it (Pakistani Press)

from a tribal area

In the Khyber region, which administratively joined the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Shakira Shinwari is competing for a general seat for the Pakistan Parliamentarians' Insaaf Party, a party she founded in June 2023 after splitting from the main Insaaf Party. Had happened. Shakira Shinwari, believed to be the first person to run for public seats in her area, which is considered a conservative tribal area, faced some hurdles.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Shinwari says it is traditionally unacceptable to the idea of ​​women's participation in their society. However, Shinwari hopes that her involvement in politics has inspired other women to consider the matter, and she says the main challenge her community faces is “the lack of awareness that men face.” affects both men and women,” she stressed, adding that her goal is to “raise awareness especially among women and encourage them to come forward and contribute, while also recognizing that they lay the foundation of the family.” Do it.”

Regarding the idea of ​​participating in an election race in an area such as the tribal belt in Pakistan, Shinwari told Al Jazeera Net, “Participating in campaign activities represents a challenge because of our tribal culture, which places restrictions on women's participation. Puts. Effort.” She said that she faces many difficulties in this conservative society and it is not only a personal challenge for her, but also a wider struggle for women in her society.

Benazir Bhutto, the most famous Pakistani politician, served as prime minister for two terms at the turn of the last century (Reuters)

female lead

Activist and political researcher Asima Wadud says, “Pakistan provided the Islamic world with its first female prime minister, and now Pakistan Muslim League's Maryam Nawaz Sharif is running for a key post in the next government.”

Regarding the possibility of any change in Pakistani society as women began to participate in elections in large numbers, Wadud told Al Jazeera Net that “democracy in Pakistan has evolved, and has now reached the point where it is Can determine the right direction.” ” And he added, “We are far from perfection. But the journey to a stable democracy has begun.”

Additionally, Wadud pointed to the “political abuse” that women participating in politics faced because of their or their family's political views in the past two years, especially after the overthrow of the Insaf Party government, and she Said that “It is unfortunate that women are randomly subjected to political abuse.”

Today, there are only 6 political parties led by women in Pakistan, out of 166 registered parties in the country, which are:

  • The Pakistan People's Party (Shaheed Bhutto) was led by Ghinwa Bhutto, the wife of Murtaza Bhutto (son of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), who disputed the leadership of the party with her sister Benazir Bhutto.
  • Back Defense National Movement headed by Sabeen Malik.
  • All Pakistan United League headed by Tehmina Amjad.
  • Pakistan Seraiki Party, led by Dr. Nekhbakh Taj Langa.
  • Islamic League headed by Fatima Lubna Hasan.
  • Pakistani Awami Forces Party, led by Salha Khaqan.

The clearest example of a Pakistani woman leading a political party is Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Pakistan Peoples Party founder and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who followed in her father's footsteps in the political arena and led the People's Party. As soon as democratic life returned after the death of General Zia-ul-Haq. Her father was executed following a coup against him, and she became Prime Minister for two terms, the first time between 1988–1990 and the second time between 1993–1996.

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