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Pakistani woman MP refuses to bow to Taliban threats

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Summary of story from RFERL, October 3, 2011

Bushra Gohar, now a member of Pakistan’s parliament, has always stood out because of her outspoken views and humble beginnings.

Originally from Jhandha, a village in Pakistan’s Pashtun heartland in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the 50-year-old’s choice of career was unorthodox for a woman from a male-dominated conservative society.

But Gohar always dreamed of promoting women’s rights in all aspects, from their role inside the family to their participation in the highest levels of political decision-making, and that eventually led her to public office.

She made her dreams come true by getting a university education in the United States before returning home to set up her own women’s NGO.

In 2008 she took the next step by running for a seat in Pakistan’s parliament, which she won and still holds today.

The Pashtun politician’s road to success has been fraught with danger, however. The Taliban’s influence in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province has risen significantly in recent years, presenting a formidable obstacle to meeting with constituents.

“I received a written threat from the Taliban demanding that I leave politics,” Gohar says.

The militants usually carry out their threats. At least three high-ranking politicians have been assassinated by the Taliban in the province since 2008. Two others narrowly escaped suicide attacks.

This is cause for most women to think twice before venturing outside the home to get a job, let alone a public position.

But Gohar is adamant that she will continue her career in politics in defiance of Taliban threats.

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