Printed on: April 02, 2013

Woman's candidacy is a first in Pakistan tribal area


KHAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A 40-year-old Pakistani housewife has made history by becoming the first woman to run for parliament from the country's deeply conservative tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Badam Zari is pushing back against patriarchal traditions and braving potential attack by Islamist militants in the hope of forcing the government to focus more on helping Pakistani women.

"I want to reach the assembly to become a voice for women, especially those living in the tribal areas," Zari told The Associated Press on Monday. "This was a difficult decision, but now I am determined and hopeful society will support me."

Many of Pakistan's 180 million citizens hold fairly conservative views on the role of women. But those views are even more pronounced in the country's semiautonomous tribal region, a poor, isolated area in the northwest dominated by Pashtun tribesmen who follow a very conservative brand of Islam. Most women in the region are uneducated, rarely work outside the home and wear long, flowing clothes that cover most of their skin.

"This is very courageous," said Asad Sarwar, one of the top political officials in Bajur, the region Zari is from. "This woman has broken the barrier."