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)


Trump aims new blasts at McCain, claims credit for funeral

Updated 21 March 2019
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Trump aims new blasts at McCain, claims credit for funeral

  • Trump ranted without citing evidence that McCain had pushed for a war and failed America’s veterans
  • Not only the McCain family but the nation “deserves better” than Trump’s disparagement — Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia

WASHINGTON: Casting aside rare censure from Republican lawmakers, President Donald Trump aimed new blasts of invective at the late John McCain Wednesday, even claiming credit for the senator’s moving Washington funeral and complaining he was never properly thanked.
By the time the president began his anti-McCain tirade in Ohio, several leading Republicans had signaled a new willingness to defy Trump by defending the Vietnam War veteran as a hero seven months after he died of brain cancer. One GOP senator called Trump’s remarks “deplorable.”
Trump then launched a lengthy rant in which he claimed without citing evidence that McCain had pushed for a war and failed America’s veterans.
“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted,” Trump told reporters at a campaign-style rally in Lima, Ohio. “I didn’t get (a) thank you but that’s OK.”
In fact, McCain’s family made clear that Trump was not welcome during the week-long, cross-country ceremonies that the senator had planned himself. Instead, McCain invited former Presidents George W. Bush, who defeated McCain during the 2000 GOP nomination fight, and Barack Obama, who defeated him in 2008, to deliver eulogies on the value of pursuing goals greater than oneself. Trump signed off on the military transport of McCain’s body, went golfing and was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter during the Washington events.
Trump’s publicly nursed grudge against McCain has not appeared to alienate core supporters, some of whom had soured on the senator by the time of his death. Aware of this, GOP lawmakers until now have stayed subdued or silent though Trump sometimes infuriated them with his comments on their late colleague.
McCain’s allies suggested it was time for that to change.
“I hope (Trump’s) indecency to John’s memory and to the McCain family will convince more officeholders that they can’t ignore the damage Trump is doing to politics and to the country’s well-being or remain silent despite their concerns,” said Mark Salter, McCain’s biographer. “They must speak up.”
Trump has said for years that he doesn’t think McCain is a hero because the senator was captured in Vietnam. McCain was tortured and held prisoner for more than five years.
The president has never served in the military and obtained a series of deferments to avoid going to Vietnam, including one attained with a physician’s letter stating that he suffered from bone spurs in his feet.
One McCain Senate vote in particular is the thumbs-down Trump can’t seem to forget. The Arizona senator in 2017 sank the GOP effort to repeal Obama’s health care law. Trump was furious, and it showed even in the days after McCain’s death last August. The administration lowered the American flag over the White House to half-staff when McCain died on a Saturday, but then raised it by Monday. After public outcry, the White House flags were again lowered.
This week, Trump unloaded a new series of anti-McCain tweets in which he said he never had been “a fan” and never would be.
His relentless new targeting of the deceased senator seemed to cross a boundary for several Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called McCain “a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.” McConnell tweeted, “His memory continues to remind me every day that our nation is sustained by the sacrifices of heroes.”
The Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election next year, never mentioned Trump, but others weren’t so shy.
Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said not only the McCain family but the nation “deserves better” than Trump’s disparagement.
“I don’t care if he’s president of the United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world,” Isakson told The Bulwark, a conservative news and opinion website. Later, Isakson called Trump’s remarks “deplorable.”
“It will (be) deplorable seven months from now if he says it again,” Isakson continued in remarks on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Political Rewind radio show, “and I will continue to speak out.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee whom Trump briefly considered nominating as secretary of state, tweeted praise for McCain on Tuesday — and criticism of Trump.
“I can’t understand why the President would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain: heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic, and driven by duty to family, country, and God,” Romney wrote.
Pushback also came from Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican Air Force veteran appointed to McCain’s seat from Arizona.
“John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona,” she tweeted Wednesday. “Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.”
That McSally declined to criticize Trump directly reflected the broader wariness among Republicans to cross a president famous for mobilizing his followers against GOP lawmakers he deems disloyal. But this week, Trump seemed to inspire a new determination among some to draw a line, however delicately.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who wept openly on the Senate floor after McCain died but has allied himself strongly with Trump, said, “I think the president’s comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain.”
“A lot of people are coming to John’s defense now. ... I don’t like it when he says things about my friend John McCain.”
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, were eager to jump into the uproar.
“I look forward to soon re-introducing my legislation re-naming the Senate Russell Building after American hero, Senator John McCain,” tweeted Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York.