Hindu woman enters Pakistan poll fray as independent

Islamabad: In a rare show of strength, a Pakistani minority Hindu woman from rural Sindh has stepped forward to contest the upcoming elections as an independent candidate without political support.

Sunita Parmar Meghwar, one of the first Hindu women to contest general elections, is all prepared to represent the underdeveloped Tharparkar district in the Sindh provincial assembly.

Meghwar, who belongs to the Hindu Meghwar community, refused to bow to community pressures in the male-dominated society of feudal landlords in the underprivileged Tharparkar district.

Meghwar hails from Sindh’s southern bordering district, Tharparkar, which accounts the highest number of Hindus in Pakistan. The district has a population of 1.6 million, of which around half are Hindus, according to the 2017 census.

She submitted her nomination papers as an independent candidate from the Sindh assembly constituency PS-56, in the Islamkot area of Tharparkar district.

The 30-year-old said she was compelled to contest elections as political parties representing the region had failed to deliver in the province and politicians who won seats from the constituency never even paid a visit to resolve the plight of the locals. “Issues such as drinking water, health and education have not been addressed by the local representatives. I felt the urge to step up for our people” to work for the development of community, she said.

In a viral video message, Meghwar blamed the political parties in power in Sindh for the deteriorating status of women, especially in the education and health sectors. She pointed out that no political party has given a ticket to any woman for the general seat because the parties fear the fact that women are honest and would oppose their rigging and create hurdles to their corrupt practices.

Without naming any political party, Meghwar said she doesn’t have any enmity with any political party but her struggle is just for women rights. “I don’t have any enmity or opposition with anyone but it is time now that women’s existence and capabilities should be accepted.”

The resilience of the daughter of the Thar has amazed the locals who are hopeful her victory will transform the lives of the people of the desert region who face various health issues such as waterborne diseases, inadequate health facilities, famine, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and lack of basic infrastructure.

Meghwar is determined to improve key health indicators of people in the province and educate the women of Thar. “My goals are very clear. I want to work for girls’ education and play my role in providing basic health facilities on every doorstep,” she proclaimed.

Highlighting the health crisis in the impoverished region, she said that while the issue of malnutrition was accentuated in the media, there’s been little attention paid to the needs of health issues of mothers.

Surprisingly, Meghwar has received overwhelming support from her family and the Meghwar community who, along with the Kohli Hindu community, constitute more than 70 per cent of the vote-bank in the area.

Local analysts foresee a promising future for Meghwar as no one had dared to challenge the feudal landlords contesting elections from the area up until now.

In March 2018, Thari Hindu woman Krishna Kumari become the first-ever Thari Hindu woman to be elected to Pakistan’s Senate.