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Female member of Pakistan’s parliament threatened by Taliban


Summary of story from RFE/RL, October 3, 2011

Bushra Gohar, a member of Pakistan’s parliament and deputy of the secular-nationalist Awami National Party, has received death threats from the Taliban who want her to step down from politics.

The Taliban’s influence in her region of north-western Pakistan has risen significantly in recent years, presenting a formidable obstacle to her meeting with constituents.

Hundreds of girls’ schools have been destroyed or burned down by the Taliban and working women have been forced to leave their jobs and wear the hijab.

And at least three high-ranking politicians have been assassinated by the Taliban in her province since 2008. Two others narrowly escaped suicide attacks.

Unlike many women politicians in Pakistan, Ms Gohar does not belong to any political family or dynasty.  And her choice of career was unorthodox for a woman in the region’s male-dominated conservative society. But she wanted to promote women’s rights.

After a university education in the USA she returned and set up her own women’s NGO. In 2008 she ran for a seat in Pakistan’s parliament, which she won and still holds today.

Ms Gohar’s political plans now go beyond her native province, and she welcomed the recent appointment of several women from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to “more serious top jobs” such as the finance, foreign affairs, and justice ministers.

Women used to only be appointed to the social welfare department, but, she says: “Now, the speaker of parliament is a woman, and several important parliamentary committees are chaired by women.”

And she is determined to continue her career in politics.

“We all die one day,” she says, “with or without the Taliban attacking us.”

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