Pak gets first Dalit woman senator
Human rights activist Kirshna Kolhi wins election from minority seat in Sindh province
Karachi, March 4
In a historic first for Pakistan, a Dalit woman from the country’s marginalised Hindu community has been elected to the Senate, the upper house of the parliament.
Kirshna Kumari Kolhi from Pakistan’s Sindh province has become the first-ever Hindu Dalit woman senator in the Muslim-majority country, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has said.Kolhi, 39, who belongs to the remote Dhana Gam village in Nagarparkar in the interior Sindh province, is a member of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari-led PPP.
Bhutto said Kolhi’s election on a minority seat from Sindh showed minorities had rights in Pakistan and that she could play an effective role in country’s politics.Kolhi said she was happy that the PPP had reposed faith in her and in her work. Known as Kishoo Bai by her parents and friends for her fiery temper and activism, Kolhi said a lot of work needed to be done for the oppressed and poor in the interior areas.“I, my family and relatives were in bonded labour in a private jail owned by an influential landlord in Umerkot district and we were only freed during a police raid,” she said.
Noting that she was a little girl when the incident took place, Kolhi said it prompted her to fight for the rights of women and children belonging to the minority communities.“My husband and family supported me a lot in my studies and work and it allowed me to get required education despite my Dalit background,” she said.Kolhi’s election represents a major milestone for women and minority rights in Pakistan. Earlier, the PPP had elected first Hindu woman Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla as a senator.
While Chawla belonged to a well-known Hindu family in Sindh, Kolhi is the first lower caste woman to come to the senate.Born to a poor peasant Jugno Kolhi in February 1979, Kolhi and her family spent nearly three years in a private jail owned by the landlord of Kunri of Umerkot district. She was a grade 3 student at the time.She was married to Lalchand at the age of 16, when she was studying in grade 9.
However, she pursued her studies and in 2013 did her Master’s in Sociology from the Sindh University.Kolhi had joined the PPP as a social activist along with her brother, who was later elected as chairman of Union Council Berano. She also actively participated and worked for the rights of the marginalised communities living in Thar district and other areas.
Pakistan’s ruling PML-N of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday won 15 seats in senate and became the largest party in the upper house of Parliament, according to the provisional results.Provincial and federal lawmakers voted to elect 52 senators in the senate elections, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
More than 130 candidates, including those nominated by political parties and independent candidates were in the contest.Hindus makeup just two per cent of the total population of Pakistan and have long complained of victimisation.