Khurshid Begum Saeed’s admission into Parliament was fairly easy: the Awami National Party was compiling a list of women candidates for reserved seats in 2008 but did not have enough with a Bachelor’s degree. Someone suggested Khurshid Begum’s name and the rest is history.
However, while the entry was a smooth process, the ride has been anything but.
On May 16, 2012, she and her husband Saeed Shah, both ANP politicians from Kohat, were attacked by gunmen. Two persons were killed in the attack but the couple survived. This happened again on November 15.
Following the attacks, Shah received threats from militants warning him against his wife’s profession. “Tell your wife to sit at home or face the consequences,” read one message.
Khurshid Begum, however, remains undeterred. “Politics is the pinnacle of public service. I’m going to step outside to serve my people,” she said.
This time, she is running for a general seat – NA-14 (Kohat) — from ANP’s platform. Although her campaign has been suffering because of the Taliban’s threat to her party, she continues holding small gatherings and corner meetings in the villages of Kohat.
“There are some people who are scared but overall the morale of the voters is high,” she said. “When they see a woman campaigning, they are encouraged to vote.”
There are some areas in NA-14 where women have never voted before and Khurshid Begum is trying to turn that around. “These women are not aware of the importance of their votes,” she said. “I’ve convinced them that by voting they can play a major part in improving the conditions of their area.”
She claims to have spent her MNA discretionary funds on water, electricity and gas supply projects in Kohat, built a library and a press club and got grants for both the Kohat University of Sciences and Technology and a Centre for Special Education.
If elected, she vows to provide better education and health facilities for women in the rural areas, and wants to establish a cancer hospital in Kohat as well as completing a Burns Centre she initiated during the previous term.
“Please think about the impact of your vote and stop fearing the extremists,” she said, addressing potential voters. “Fear will only help terrorists usurp your freedom. If you let them decide your fate, the future generation will have to bear the loss.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2013.