KARACHI: The recent Senate elections may have lost credibility in the people's eyes due to accusations of large-scale horse-trading, but the victories of a few candidates from underprivileged groups, marginalised communities and minorities is a positive omen that has helped revive hope in the system.
One such beacon of hope is Anwar Lal Dean who has been elected against the single reserved seat for minorities in Sindh. He belongs to the Christian community and received 113 votes on the Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) ticket in the recent elections. The other aspirant for the seat, Muttahida Qaumi Movement - Pakistan's Sanjay Perwani, only managed to secure 28 votes.
As soon as the Senate election results were announced on Saturday evening, Dean, along with a few friends and party workers, went to a roadside stall in Saddar to have a celebratory cup of tea.
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The senator, who has a humble background, lives in a rented two-bedroom apartment in Saddar. He can usually be seen riding his motorcycle, his sole means of transportation, to complete his daily errands. Even the motorcycle has been purchased on lease and he is still paying for it in installments.
Earlier in the day he was elected senator, he had dropped his children to school on his motorcycle. However, his morning routine has been disrupted since his win, as he has been busy responding to the warm welcomes and congratulatory messages from friends, family members, party workers and supporters.
Dean has six daughters and a son. His eldest daughter recently graduated from the University of Karachi while his youngest son is studying in sixth grade at St Patrick's High School.
Dean's family is no different than other families of similar socio-economic classes. "Earlier, my wife used to ask how we would marry off our daughters," Dean said, adding that "now, I will be getting a good salary and through sufficient savings I'll manage to get my daughters married within a year or two".
Born in Ladyei village, Sialkot district in Punjab, December, 1956, he spent his entire life in Karachi and entered politics by joining the National Students Federation during his college days. Later, Dean joined the PPP in the early 1970s after he was impressed by the charisma and socialist ideology of the country's first elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
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He gradually climbed the ladder in the party and eventually served as a divisional president of the PPP's minority wing. He also served as special assistant to former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah.
"I'm thankful to my leadership for nominating a poor party worker like me for the Senate," Dean told The Express Tribune in high spirits. He added that he was hopeful that the PPP would award him a Senate ticket as it was the only party in the country's history that had and was even capable of taking such unprecedented steps.
To contest the Senate elections, he was interviewed by the selection board headed by PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. "I think my ideology and credentials weighed more than my financial status and, hence, I was approved by my party leadership to be nominated as a senator on the minority seat," Dean said.
"I can't say whether I could have been elected to the Senate had I been in any political party other than the PPP."
Dean has resolved that he will not distance himself from the common people, especially the poor and non-Muslims. He wants to be their voice in the upper house. "I'll perform my duties with the consideration that I am accountable to my God, my country and my party," he said, adding that he would give his 100% during his term as senator.
Commending the PPP for having minorities' representatives elected in the Senate, Sikh rights activist Sardar Ramesh Singh Khalsa said the victory of poor party workers like Krishna Kolhi and Dean in the Senate elections revived the faith of non-Muslims in the system. The PPP is the only party in which non-Muslim citizens of this country have hopes for their rights, representation and inclusion in the mainstream, he added.
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