ISLAMABAD: Pakistan elected its first female senator from the lowest Dalit caste over the weekend, in polls which also saw the ruling party strengthen its hand ahead of general elections in the Muslim-majority 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, my family members and relatives were in bondage labour in a private jail owned by an influential landlord in Umerkot district and we were only freed during a police raid.”
- Krishna Kumari Kohli | First female Dalit senator
“I feel proud, I am thankful to Pakistan People’s Party that they nominated me,” Kohli told AFP Sunday.
In a historic first, Thari Hindu woman Krishna Kumari Kohli was elected to Pakitan's Senate on Saturday. Kumari, a rights activist belonging to the Kohli community from the remote village of Dhana Gam in Nagarparkar, was selected as a candidate for a Senate seat by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). — AP
“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 make up around two per cent of the country’s 200 million people.
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.
Krishna Kumari, a PPP senate candidate from Sindh belongs to Thar´s Kohli community and spent 3 years along with her family in a landlord´s private jail as a child. https://t.co/0NLh2Do4IS Such a feel-good story.— Abbas Nasir (@abbasnasir59) February 4, 2018
PML-N wins Senate majority
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 continued to lose momentum, coming in third.
“Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has secured a clear majority in the Senate polls,” the party announced late Saturday on its official Twitter account.
The ruling party’s commanding majority comes after the Supreme Court toppled PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif from the premiership in July over corruption allegations.
Sending congrats to @KishooLal (Krishna Kumari Kohli), first Pakistani Hindu Dalit woman elected to the country's Senate. Wishing her the best & hoping she can work to address the issues facing inner Sindh, especially the Hindu community there. #PakistanForAll @KishooLal pic.twitter.com/g5UJh8xCH9— SALMAN AHMED (@Salman2sss) March 4, 2018
Ahead of the senate vote, the court barred Sharif from leading his party, forcing all PML-N candidates to run as independents because they were selected by the axed chief.
Despite the court rulings, the PML-N has won a string of by-elections following the ousting of Sharif.
Krishna Kumari Kohli became the first-ever Dalit Hindu woman Senator in the upper house of Pakistan.@KishooLal created history by winning the elections from seat from Sindh Assembly on ticket of #PPP led by @BBhuttoZardari @NewsWorldINhttps://t.co/GvUS51V9Qd— Abdul Majid Kalwar (@Majid_PSF) March 4, 2018
The Sharif clan and their supporters have repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, suggesting Nawaz is the victim of a conspiracy driven by Pakistan’s powerful military establishment.