53-year-old Badam Zari (the one in the colorful Islamic garb) is illiterate, even though her husband happens to be a teacher. Although that's not particularly surprising- considering she lives in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), a hotbed of Islamic militancy and home to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other lovelies- what is surprising is that she's running for office. Yes, the brave housewife will be the first female ever to be approved to run for the upcoming parliamentary elections, even though everyone knows she won't win. She, however, is apparently hopeful.
“I am contesting the election with passion, with a clean heart and a clear conscience. My passion is to educate the future generation, girls and women, and to serve them,” she told AFP in a telephone interview from Bajaur district.
“I know I am the first woman to contest and I am hopeful that I will win.”
Bajaur is one of seven districts that make up Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The semi-autonomous region of mountains, valleys and caves is one of the most deprived, impoverished and ill-educated in the country.
It has been a stronghold for Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other Pakistani militant groups, and for years a battleground between the army and insurgents.
Thanks to reforms introduced by the outgoing government in a bid to lessen the grip of militancy, political parties can now contest elections for the first time in FATA.
But 53-year-old Zari, who comes from Arang, is standing as an independent.
She says she has nothing to fear but acknowledges she will not be able to campaign in public. Instead, she will stay in purdah -- either in her quarters or in the quarters of other women who are not allowed to gather in public.
“I have no fear, I have never been threatened by anyone,” she said.
I'm glad she has no fear, but a female running for office, bucking for education for women? Has she forgotten about schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai? That's right, she can't read. And so she obviously hasn't heard about the Taliban threatening those who contest the elections, including voters. Democracy is un-Islamic, after all.
Poor woman, we'll see how long she lasts before she's the next Taliban target.