It might come as a surprise to many that the politico-religious Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), which enjoys the backing of Milli Muslim League (MML), has fielded 14 women for the upcoming general elections.
The AAT was formed after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) refused to register the MML, a political face of the Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), which was put on the special list of global terrorists by the United States in April 2018.
The AAT has awarded tickets to 14 “highly educated women” to contest the upcoming elections from different constituencies. Some of these women were formerly associated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Of these 14 candidates, three have been nominated for reserved seats and one for minority seats, party sources said.
One of the candidates, Advocate Iffat Tahira Soomro, had been the covering candidate for PTI Secretary General Jahangir Tareen in NA-161 (Lodhran) in the 2013 elections. She had also led the women’s wing for the election campaign of Tareen.
Advocate Iffat, who holds a master’s degree in law, was one of the founding members of PTI’s South Punjab chapter. She has actively been involved in politics since 2007. She is also the in-charge of Punjab Commission for Women and has a grip on women’s issues.
The AAT has nominated Benazir Fatima Qureshi, a former PPP politician, for NA-181 (Muzaffargarh). Besides being an active PPP political worker, Qureshi has also served as coordinator for Benazir Income Support Program in Muzaffargarh district. Benezir, who belongs to the influential Qureshi family, enjoys the support of several other communities and families in her constituency.
Similarly, Dr Sanam Laghari, from the Golarachi area of Badin district of Sindh, will also be contesting the election from the AAT platform. Dr Sanam Laghari is expected to face stiff opposition from Sindhi nationalist parties, but she is determined to face them in the elections.
Party sources have confirmed that the AAT has nominated Iqra Muzammil for NA-251 (Karachi), Rabia Mukhtar for NA-107 (Faisalabad), Iffat Tahira Soomro for NA-161 (Lodharan) and Benazir Fatima Qureshi for NA-181 (Muzaffargarh). And for provincial seats, Shazia Saeed has been nominated for PP-14, Shazia Kausar for PP-83, Saira Bano for PP-149, Syeda Tahira Sheerazi for PP-151, Begum Abida Nazeer for PP-229, and Dr Sanam Laghari for PS-74.
Saira Bano is said to be a paternal cousin of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the ailing wife of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. She hails from a notable Pehlwaan family of Lahore and enjoys widespread support.
Similarly, the politico-religious party, which has been allotted Chair as election symbol, has nominated Humera Nausheen and Farhat Naeem for seats reserved for women in the Punjab Assembly, while Samuel Masih has been named for a minority seat.