SHABQADAR: Aisha Gulalai from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) has become the youngest member of national assembly (MNA) to be nominated on a reserved seat for women.
Before her, the late Mehrunnisa Afridi of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) and Hajra Tariq Aziz of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were also nominated from the tribal regions on reserved seats. However, neither Afridi nor Aziz were as vocal as Gulalai. Nor did they have the strong social background and experience of national and international forums that Gulalai can boast of.
Gulalai started her career as a human rights activist from South Waziristan. PPPP was inclined to give her a party ticket in the 2008 elections, but she could not compete due to the age stipulation.
Later, she joined the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and was nominated as a member for the party’s central committee. Gulalai then contested for a seat reserved for women on a PTI ticket in the 2013 elections.
Like Dr Shireen Mazari, she is also a critic of drone strikes as she herself hails from South Waziristan – a region regularly bombed by unmanned predators. She is also among those human rights activists who condemned the attack on Malala Yousafzai, terming it an assault on the freedom of women.
When asked about her nomination for an MNA seat, Gulalai thanked party chief Imran Khan and the PTI. Gulalai also lauded Badam Zari, a woman who made history by contesting the election from NA-44, Bajaur.
Regarding drone attacks, Gulalai said they were the main reason for militancy as each kill resulted in the production of several militants bent on ending the loss of life in the tribal belt.
The MNA also gave her opinion on peace talks with the Taliban by asserting a jirga representing all political parties, tribal elders and the army could negotiate with the militants. “Since the Taliban have offered a peace deal, the federal government should step forward,” said Gulalai, adding she would be happy to lend her services in this regard as she had knowledge of tribal traditions.
Gulalai maintained she would raise the issue of reserved seats for women from Fata in the National Assembly. “Fata has no such quota, and I will raise the issue on the floor of the house as this is discriminatory against women,” she promised.
“Fata should be demarcated as a separate province with its own governor and chief minister,” urged Gulalai while sharing her views on the tribal belt’s designation. She added Fata’s natural resources should be explored and that the PTI had proposed a local body election system which should be implemented in the region.
Gulalai claimed tribal people had a great deal of potential. She cited the example of Maria Toorpakai, a female Pakistani squash star who also hails from South Waziristan. “But we need education on an emergency basis,” stressed Gulalai. “Especially, since people in the tribal areas want to send their women to school. We also need to focus on higher education with more universities.”
Correction: The earlier version of the story incorrectly stated ‘elected’ instead of ‘nominated’. The error is regretted.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2013.