Pakistan’s Krishna Kumari hopes to complete journey from slavery to Senate

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Kirshna Kumari speaking to Arab News. (AN photo)
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Krishna Kumari with her father. (Photo via Krishna Kumari's Twitter account)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Pakistan’s Krishna Kumari hopes to complete journey from slavery to Senate

KARACHI: Krishna Kumari could become the first woman from Pakistan’s scheduled Hindu caste to be elected to the Senate.
Kumari, 38, is a member of the Kohli tribe of the Hindu community living in the Nagarparker area of Thar near the border with India. She is one of a dozen candidates nominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for the upcoming senate elections in March.
“I’m happy, I’m feeling great,” Kumari told Arab News as she arrived unnoticed at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regional office in Karachi on Wednesday alongside a number of senators and ministers.
“I never dreamed that I would ever make it to the upper house of Pakistan’s Parliament,” she said.
Kumari began actively working for social change in 2005 after attending several youth leadership workshops. She started out by identifying cases of bonded labor and compiling case studies of women in bondage.
Kumari was quick to stress that she did not feel her position as a member of one of the country’s scheduled castes had held her back.
“Being in a minority has never been a disadvantage in Pakistan. I have never faced any discrimination for being a non-Muslim Pakistani and my selection proves that Pakistan is a country of people from all faiths,” she said. “It is a lack of education (that complicates) our entry to the forums like Parliament.”
Kumari stressed that education, particularly for girls, will remain her top priority for the next six years if she is elected as a senator.
“I have not set many targets. I have only one target and that’s educating all girls of Sindh in general and Thar in particular,” she said.
She added that she hoped to be able to represent disadvantaged women, too.
“In Thar, there was no one to listen to the problems of Thari women,” she said. “With my election to the Senate, they will have their own voice in the top forum of legislature.”
Mehnaz Rehman, a rights activist associated with the Aurat Foundation, told Arab News, “Kumari’s election would (improve) the image of Pakistan, which is (often) criticized for discrimination against minorities.”
Kumari’s journey has not been an easy one.
“My life was the toughest. My family was held for bonded labor when I was a child,” Kumari recalled, explaining that the eventually freed her family.
“Our father, though he himself was illiterate, was determined to give us an education,” she said. “At dawn, I would go to school but (straight after school) my mother would take us to the farmland and we would work there until sunset.”
Kumari credited former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto with opening the door for other women in Pakistani politics.
“It’s the ideology of BB Shaheed which has given women a chance to serve everywhere from the embassies to the foreign office and provincial and national assemblies, to the senate of Pakistan,” Kumari said.
She also expressed her thanks to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — Benazir’s son — for the opportunity to “serve Pakistan and promote national cohesion and harmony.”
If elected, Kohli would become just the second Hindu woman to be elected to Pakistan’s senate — after Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla, who sat from 2006 to 2012 — but the first from the scheduled Hindu caste.

Kirshna Kumari waits for her turn to submit the nomination papers. (AN photos)


Hundreds of migrants storm Spanish enclave in North Africa, one dies

Updated 12 min 20 sec ago
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Hundreds of migrants storm Spanish enclave in North Africa, one dies

  • About 200 migrants managed to scale the seven-meter high metal barrier and were taken to a reception center in Melilla
  • The man died of a suspected cardio-respiratory arrest despite being treated by emergency services

MADRID: One African migrant died and three others were injured when around 300 stormed the border fence separating Spanish enclave Melilla from Morocco on Sunday, the local authorities said.
About 200 migrants managed to scale the seven-meter high metal barrier and were taken to a reception center in Melilla where officials started the process of identifying them.
The man died of a suspected cardio-respiratory arrest despite being treated by emergency services, the Spanish government’s local delegation said in a statement.
More than 6,000 migrants have made it to Melilla and Spain’s nearby territory Ceuta so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. In some places, the fences around the enclaves are topped with razor wire.
On Sunday, wooden-handled hooks and shoes fitted with spikes to help the climb were left behind, along with a bloodied t-shirt.
More than 40,000 have arrived by sea on Andalucia’s southern coast since January, making Spain Europe’s top destination for migrants which the European Union has failed to agree on how to handle.
The routes have changed as Italy clamped down on rescue ships to dock at its ports, and a deal between the EU and Turkey eased flows across the Aegean Sea to Greece.
The vast majority of arrivals in Spain are men, primarily from Guinea, Mali and Morocco, the UNHCR says.
On Saturday, Spain returned to Morocco 24 migrants who reached the Chafarinas islands, another Spanish territory off the North African coast, under a bilateral agreement signed in 1992, under which citizens of third countries who have entered illegally can be returned within a certain time frame.
This agreement was very rarely used until this summer, when 116 men who stormed the Ceuta fence were turned back. Spain’s Interior Ministry says it is being used now thanks to good bilateral relations.