FAISALABAD: An independent transgender candidate is likely to siphon off the main candidates’ votes in PP-78 Jhang constituency – which is a stronghold of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) (the defunct Sipah Sihaba Pakistan).
The tense atmosphere in the constituency was revitalised after the entry of an independent transgender candidate, gravitating local people in her wake.
Arif alias ‘Madam Boota’, 45, is a transgender person who lives in a one-room house and pays a monthly rent of Rs1,000.
She told The Express Tribune: “I earn my livelihood by dancing on the births of babies, their birthdays and wedding parties … I am satisfied that I live honourably and bear all of my expenses through the dint of hard labour”.
Madam Boota, who lives in the vegetable market in Jhang city, said: “Members of my community are ridiculed as mere ‘Khusras’ … My decision to contest the polls took a lot of courage on my part. I intend to represent local people and strive for their well-being.”
Criticising previous lawmakers who were elected from her constituency, she said: “These men and women did nothing to resolve the problems of their electorate. I belong to the same class and am fully aware of the miseries of the electorate.”
“As a citizen of Jhang, I reserve the right to play my role in local politics,” she asserted.
Terming popular opinion about her gender inconsequential, she said: “Local people are also disgusted by unclean environment and deplorable conditions of schools and roads … I decided not to miss the God-given opportunity to highlight these issues without any consideration to electoral victory or defeat,” she maintained.
She frankly conceded: “I know that my chances to win the election are slim but I am determined to contest. Main contenders may take heed after seeing me, a Khusra, this may also awaken their ‘Ghairat’ (honour). This way, I may be able to do something for the people”, she said.
Stressing the need for elevating the social status of her community, she said that separate educational institution should be established for their benefit.
By-election in the PP-78 is scheduled to be held after a PML-N MPA, Rashida Yaqoob, was disqualified by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhyanvi, the Chief of ASWJ on charges of concealing assets in the nomination papers.
Although there are 28 candidates in the race, but the main contest is between PML-N candidate Azad Nasir Ansari and Izaharul Haq Jhangvi, fielded by the ASWJ.
PML-N candidate Ansari, who got elected as the chairman of a union council with the support of Maulana Lundhianvi, switched political loyalties and joined the Sheikh Akram group of the ruling party. He is supported by all local groups of PML-N.
After Rashida Yaqoob’s disqualification, Sheikh Akram withdrew his son, Sheraz Akram, from the contest, boosting Ansari’s prospects.
When Maulana Ahmad Saeed Ludhianvi was disqualified, he threw his weight behind Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, the younger son of the founder of the banned SSP. Haq Nawaz Jhangvi’s elder son was assassinated in Karachi.
PML-N believes that Azad Ansari would be instrumental in drawing a large number of voters away from ASWJ. But Masroor Jhangvi is said to wield significant influence over a large segment of Urdu-speaking voters who always supported the SSP and ASWJ candidates in the past.
Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are said to have fielded very weak candidates – Sheikh Arfia Majeed and Sarfaraz Rabbani – no political background.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2016.