Pakistan elects its first Dalit woman Senator


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 Krishna Kumari Kohli’s election represents a major milestone for women and minority rights in Pakistan.

Pakistan elected its first Dalit woman Senator over the weekend, in polls which also saw the ruling party strengthen its hand ahead of general elections in the country.

Opposition candidate Krishna Kumari Kohli’s surprise victory stirred a wave of optimism on social media, as Pakistanis celebrated the rare win for a woman from a marginalised community that lies at the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy.

“I feel proud, I am thankful to Pakistan People’s Party that they nominated me," Ms. Kohli told AFP on March 4.

“Kudos to PPP for electing #KrishnaKohli.... Our parliament should have representatives of all religions, classes & genders in pursuit of true democracy,” tweeted rights activist Jibran Nasir.

Pakistan’s Hindus, who make up around 2% of the country’s 200 million people, have long faced economic and social discrimination.

She won the election for the reserved seat for women from Sindh Province, Dawn News reported.

Her election represents a major milestone for women and minority rights in Pakistan. Earlier, the PPP had elected first Hindu woman named Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla as a Senator.
Ms. Kolhi belongs to a remote village in Nagarparkar district of Thar in Sindh province.

Born to a poor peasant, Jugno Kolhi, in February 1979, Ms. Kolhi and her family members 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 when held captive.

She was married to Lalchand at the age of 16, when she was studying in 9th grade. However, she pursued her studies and in 2013 she did masters in sociology from the Sindh University.

She had joined the PPP as a social activist along with her brother, who was later elected as Chairman of Union Council Berano.

Ms. Kolhi also actively participated and worked for the rights of downtrodden people of marginalised communities living in Thar and other areas.

She is from the family of the valiant freedom fighter Rooplo Kolhi, who had waged a war against the invading British colonialist forces when they had attacked Sindh from Nagarparkar side in 1857. Subsequently, he was arrested and hanged by the Britishers on August 22, 1858.
Ms. Kohli’s win followed a secret round of voting by members of the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, in what is largely seen as insider horse trading ahead of elections due this summer.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 15 seats in the Senate, securing a total of 33 spots in the 104-seat upper house, which along with support from allies all but earns the party a dominating majority in the chamber.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won the second largest number of seats in the contest, while cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party came in third.

“Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has secured a clear majority in the Senate polls,” the party announced late on March 3 on its official Twitter account.

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Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai Mon, March-5-2018, 10:00
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