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Hindu Woman Elected to Pakistan Senate in Historic First

"I will continue to work for the rights of the oppressed people, especially for the empowerment of women, their health and education,"

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Krishna Kumari works in her office in Hyderabad, Pakistan, Feb. 12, 2018. VOA
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A woman from Pakistan’s marginalized Hindu minority has been elected to the Pakistan Senate for the first time ever in an election over the weekend in which a Taliban-linked cleric was defeated.

Krishna Kumari, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party, hails from the so-called untouchables, the lowest rung of the caste system that still prevails in Pakistan and neighboring India.

Lawmakers in national and four provincial assemblies on Saturday elected half of the 104-member Pakistan Senate to six-year terms.

ALSO READ: Pakistan Faces Rising Criticism over Inability to Curb Extremism and threat it poses to its Neighbours

Deposed premier Nawaz Sharif’s party holds a plurality of 33 seats in the upper house of parliament after winning 15 in Saturday’s elections. Former President Asif Zardari’s party came in second, followed by the party led by former cricket star Imran Khan.

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“I feel delighted, this was unthinkable for me to reach the senate,” Kumari told The Associated Press. Wikimedia Commons

Khan’s party supported Maulana Samiul Haq, a mentor to a number of Taliban leaders, but he fell short. Extremist groups in Pakistan have mobilized mass rallies in recent years to protest U.S. policies and support tough anti-blasphemy laws, but have largely failed to translate their clout into electoral victories.

Most of Pakistan’s Hindu population fled to India as part of the population exchange that followed the 1947 partition. Those who remain to live on the political and economic margins, and like other minorities they have endured discrimination at the hands of the Muslim majority.

ALSO READ: Will Pakistan listen to the USA and Stop Harboring Taliban and other terrorist groups?

Kumari, who was born and raised in a remote district, attributed her success to her parents, who encouraged her to pursue her education and eventually helped her to earn a university degree. She later worked for a non-governmental organization before joining the Pakistan People’s Party of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The party nominated her for a seat reserved for minority candidates from the Sindh province, where it holds a majority.

“I will continue to work for the rights of the oppressed people, especially for the empowerment of women, their health and education,” she said.

Kumari, who worked in the fields alongside her parents as a child, will take the oath of office later this month alongside some of the biggest landowners in the country. (VOA)

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Vow To Hold Peace Talks With India: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since taking power in August Khan has also sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan prepares to speak at the opening of the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday vowed to hold peace talks with arch-rival India following elections in the neighbouring country, after a similar offer from the former cricketer was “rebuffed.”

Khan made the announcement during a speech at a Saudi Arabian investment conference where the newly minted leader launched a charm offensive targeting potential investors as Pakistan seeks to secure funds amid a yawning balance of payment crisis.

“When I won the elections and came to power the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the crowd at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, saying the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.

“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” he added, referring to upcoming nationwide polls scheduled to take place by mid-May.

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Imran Khan, wikimedia commons

In September India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a UN summit — a move that was termed “arrogant” by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both since independence in 1947.

Delhi has stationed about 500,000 soldiers in the portion of Kashmir it controls, where separatist groups demand independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Khan’s call for peace talks comes as his administration is desperately seeking funds from “friendly” countries, including Saudi Arabia, to shore up Pakistan’s deteriorating finances.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, surrounded by host country representatives and other participants, attends an investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. VOA

The prime minister’s attendance at the FII comes as leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs shunned the conference in response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

During his address at the FII Khan confirmed that Pakistan was also in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a new bailout.

Also Read: Pakistan Fears Economic Turmoil, Re-thinks ‘Silk Road’ Project With China

Since taking power in August Khan has also sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of high-profile populist austerity measures.

But help has been in short supply and economists’ warnings have grown increasingly urgent. (VOA)