Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience



Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Marvi Memon, Sassui Palejo and Heer Soho from left to right. — File Photos

Three female candidates, belonging to parties of widely divergent cultures and politics, are contesting elections in Southern Sindh to woo people of the little-known Mirpur Sakro.

Sassui Palejo, Marvi Memon and Heer Soho share their names with three famous heroines of folk mythology – but how much do they have in common with their namesakes? Unlike the protagonists of the legends, the three politicians have their own standing without the male hero who is so integral to folklore narratives.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Marvi and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) candidate Heer are pitted against each other for the NA-237 seat of Thatta, which the Mirpur Sakro Taluka is a part of. They will possibly be contesting against another female PPP candidate, Shams Nisa Memon.

Sassui is not directly contesting with Marvi and Heer, but the PS-85 constituency which she is planning to contest from also comprises Mirpur Sakro. She won the same constituency twice, with a landslide, in 2002 and 2008 against her male rivals.

Celebrated Sindhi poet and mystic Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai has written about both folk heroines Sassui and Marvi. So how are they different from the modern day political heavyweights?

Sassui was Bhittai’s favourite character, to whom he dedicated five chapters of his famous Risalo. The daughter of the rule of Bhanbhor, Sassui was abandoned by her parents after they were warned by astrologers that she was a curse and would bring a bad name to the family’s prestige. She grew up as the adopted daughter of a poor labourer and later fell in love with Punhoon, the Prince of Makran.

Punhoon’s family took him away, leaving Sassui struggling alone in the mountains in search of his beloved. On her way, the land split and devoured her when she prayed to the heavens to save her from the lust of a shepherd. Punhoon, on returning there to seek her,  met the same fate.

Marui, as spelled in Sindhi, was a poor village girl of Thar’s Bhalwa village. She was kidnapped by the king of Umerkot Umer Soomro, because of her celestial beauty. Marui stood firm and denied everything offered by the king. Her struggle was so incessant that it forced the king to return her back to her village. The well from where Marui was kidnapped according to legend still exists, and people from near and far often come to visit it.

The story of Heer Ranjha is the most famous Punjabi love story. But Heer of the MQM’s story has no such drama. In Sindhi, ‘Heer’ means a soothing breeze.

Interestingly, the location at the heart of the contest between the three women is closest to the lengendary Bhanbhor, once a thriving city which now lies in neglected ruins.

Although Sassui Palejo bears little resemblance to Bhittai’s soormi (heroine), her mother, Akhtar Baloch, has a story that can be considered stuff of legend. Akhtar was just 19 during Ayub Khan’s regime when she was arrested for protesting against the infamous One-Unit system, when the dictator merged the four provinces of West Pakistan in a bid to attain parity with the-then East Pakistan. Now Bangladesh, back then in 1950s East Pakistan was more populous than the western half of the country in its entirety.

Akhtar remained incarcerated for more than a year – soon, Sindh regained its historic identity for which it struggled against Ayub.

The modern-day Sassui has played her own role in reviving Sindhi culture – she has set up a museum in Bhanbhor, built a rest house there and arranged the Bhanbhore International Conference. New editions of classic Sindhi literature have been published and efforts have been made to revive historical places like Makli, Kotdiji and Khudabad.

Marvi too has little resemblance to Bhittai’s Marui. The PML-N candidate was previously in the PML-Q, a party supported by former president Pervez Musharraf and served as a director for the ISPR. But while Marvi may be ahead of MQM’s Heer in the election race, she is a weak candidate compared to contestants from the PPP and the powerful Shirazis in the region.

For the provincial assembly seat, Sassui is facing a similar herculean task in trying to overcome the Shirazis and the Malkanis, who have joined hands to defeat the PPP. Political observers point out, however, that Sassui is still holding out as one of the few provincial ministers who did not forget her constituents, which may help her win for a record third time.

Comments (13) Closed

manikandan.n Apr 25, 2013 06:07am
It shows a real democracy in pakistan(rights to women),what ever may be a party moreover it is a good sigh for development .
Zafar Iqbal Apr 25, 2013 06:14am
If these women come for debate on TV , there will be verbal brawl among them only.Dont expect any constructive talks.
goodDeedsLeadTo Apr 23, 2013 05:46pm
All political positions are similar to a professional job, where you get hired, you get along with colleagues, you need a good rapport with your colleagues, you meet the requirements of your business or customers, you get a raise, you get promoted, you get bonus, or you get fired, all based on performance, all based on track record. No major achievements, & all emotions, do not get the enterprise too far. Pakistan is a victim of hero worship, lacks vision, defined objectives, effectiveness & efficiency.
appkhi Apr 23, 2013 09:00pm
These are not common women these are Baigmat.....there are so many women in Pakistan politics but unfortunately all of them are opportunistic
Qamar Apr 23, 2013 12:59pm
These women politicians are not representatives of a common woman in Sindh. These are just opportunists working for their own political interests.
qasim Apr 23, 2013 03:45pm
Better yet, ask them what concrete steps have they taken to improve lives of common people in their constituency to date and what has been the impact of their efforts as judged by an independent oberver.
Javaid Bashir Apr 23, 2013 04:23pm
These women have nothing common with their name sales. Those women were legends , and love birds. They loved humanity, and were the true romantica..The Qisa khawani is an artform that gives teibutes to them. these folk lore herounes have survived the test of the time. Our Narvi, sassi and heer are enamored by power and receive energy from money and piower. Theyare eager and willing to saxrifice everything foor power. they are fallible human beings and can not survive without deceit and lies. Javaid Bashir lahore
Qamar Apr 23, 2013 04:25pm
Salim Akbani wrote " Women are also more honest than our men". This may be true in general, but does not hold up when we compare women politicians with male politicians. Name a few honest Pakistani women parliamentarians, please.
Australasia Apr 23, 2013 02:43pm
Good article with good comparison between Old folklore ladies and New ladies. The author should make a correction that these folklore ladies are not mythologies but real events. Shah Latif Bhitai made these events immortal in his book of poems (Risalo).
Salim Akbani Apr 23, 2013 02:25pm
Adding more women to the political mix is good for Pakistan's future. Women will bring some civility and humanity to the male driven culture of macho behavior displayed by so many in Pakistan, that solves nothing. Women are also more honest than our men.
Khan Apr 23, 2013 01:16pm
We need live TV debates between politicians to understand them better and let them prove what they have done and what they going to do and HOW..... Let's start this ASAP.
T. Rana Apr 24, 2013 02:29am
You are wrong and your comments are very disrespectful. These are our hard working, talented and dedicated sisters who have worked very hard for the people of Sind for many many years. So please give them some respect and appreciation for their hard work and dedication to the country and support them. These are our courageous Pakistani women who are risking their lives to make our lives and our country a better place for all of us.
Fayzee Apr 24, 2013 08:07am
A real good article. I would like to read Risalo, with translation if possible.