For Kashmore’s Begum Khatoon, ‘fear is not an option’

The elderly woman has received a ticket from AWP for PS-04 (Kashmore-I), where the PPP's Abdul Rauf Khosa is also contesting.
Published January 31, 2024

THE streets of Kashmore have been witnessing an unusual sight; an elderly woman, surrounded by people dancing around her, distributing pamphlets among shopkeepers and community members.

This woman is Begum Khatoon, who is campaigning for the elections by ‘promoting her culture’. The cultural dance is an integral part of her drive. For her, ‘fear’ is certainly not an option, and she makes it clear by joining the dancers once she is done with the distribution of her manifesto.

Unfazed by any possible repercussions for contesting the general elections, Ms Khatoon has received a ticket from the Awami Workers Party (AWP) for PS-04 (Kashmore-I). Abdul Rauf Khosa of PPP will also be contesting from the same constituency.

This is the first time Ms Khatoon will be vying for a seat in the provincial assembly, having previously taken part in local government elections.

“I have grown up in this area and live around eight kilometres from the main city of Kashmore. I am a farmer and I work on fields of rice and wheat. I am well versed with the problems plaguing my area and feel that I need to come out and exercise my right to contest elections, because why should I not? Just because stronger landowners have been able to come at the forefront does not translate to us staying on the margins,” she stresses.

Ms Khatoon, 64, is nimble for her age. She arrived to canvass the people on the motorbike, driven by her son. Her entire family is supportive of her cause and rally behind her as she goes from one person to the next, explaining her manifesto to them in Sindhi.

“Our towns need to have access to all utilities including water, gas and electricity. The schools and colleges especially for girls are in a deplorable condition and this issue should be addressed urgently. Another grave problem which keeps coming back is the killing of women in the name of ‘honour’. I want to ensure that women are safe from kidnappings and such violent incidents so that equality and harmony prevails,” she explains.

The last time she took part in an election, Ms Khatoon recalls, her water access was completely cut off by the area’s feudal landlord, while her son was also put behind bars on what she calls ‘trumped up charges’.

“In light of this, many people came to favour my cause and ultimately my tribulations ended. I am aware that I am taking a risk yet again, but I do not think I have the option to be fearful, rather being fearless is the only way to exist. The representatives whom we have voted for in the past vanish to Karachi or Islamabad after garnering votes, so it’s about time that we stood up for ourselves,” she said.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2024