‘Doctors don’t want to work in Thar’

K K Shahid speaks to Tharparkar's new Hindu senator

‘Doctors don’t want to work in Thar’
Following last Saturday’s elections Krishna Kumari Kohli has become the first Hindu Kohli woman to be elected to the Senate and the second Hindu female Senator overall after Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla, who was elected in 2006.

Kumari, who belongs to Nagarparkar town in Tharparkar, contested the election on the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) ticket and was elected on one of Sindh’s two women’s seats. The Friday Times sat down with her to gauge her reactions on becoming a senator.

TFT: Who among the PPP leadership backed you for the Senate ticket?

KK: All of the PPP leadership has supported me. But I would especially like to mention Sardar Shah, the minister of culture, who supported me a lot. The party has helped me in every way possible to bring me to this position.

TFT: You have been elected to the women’s seat. What do you think are the problems that women face in the country, including those among the minorities?

KK: I have been elected to the general women’s seat, and I view all women through the same lens. As far as women’s issues are concerned, we need to start with creating awareness of gender equality. The gravest among the issues for women are child marriages, forced conversions, karo kari, and they need to be urgently addressed.

TFT: As a representative of the Hindu community, do you feel there is an additional responsibility on you to address their concerns?

KK: Yes, I will work to contribute to make things better for the Hindu community among other minorities and indeed the nation as a whole as well. As far as the Hindu community is concerned, the biggest issues are related to health and education – especially in Tharparkar. Those areas need a lot of work, and I’d like to focus on these problems.

TFT: You are from the Tharparkar. Why do you think the area’s issues remain unaddressed?

KK: Thar’s biggest worries centre around health, water and education. The doctors don’t want to go there. Anyone who is posted in Thar stays there for a month or two and then gets themselves transferred elsewhere. And so, there are no local doctors, and those asked to work there do not stay long enough.

The situation of teachers in the local schools is similar as well. Girls’ education is almost nonexistent.

TFT: What work would you like to do for religious minorities in Pakistan?

KK: From Pakistan’s creation till today, we haven’t had proper representation. This is why religious minorities have faced a lot of problems. But we are striving to address the concerns and hopefully we’ll overcome the problems.

TFT: You are being dubbed the first ‘Dalit’ woman to become a Senator in Pakistan. What do you say to that given the community’s troubles in India?

KK: I don’t have a say on what the situation is like in India; I am an indigenous Pakistani Hindu. But what I can say is that these labels are Indian, not Pakistani. Unfortunately, some of us are trying to endorse them in our country as well. I personally believe in equality for all. I don’t believe in these tags.

TFT: How did you get into politics? Who have been your role models?

KK: I have been working with the PPP since 2010. I started off with working for the anti-sexual harassment bill and then against bonded labour and child marriages. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was my ideal and it was because of her that I started liking the PPP.

TFT: Any comments on the overall Senate elections?

KK: I don’t have a lot of experience or history in politics, but I was elected by a convincing margin. This shows what democracy is.