July 11, 2022
By Shafiq Shar
KHAIRPUR: Parveen Sheikh, the daughter of a poor labourer, astonished everyone by bagging a seat on Khairpur’s municipal committee in the first leg of local body elections in Sindh, defeating a ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate. She secured 430 votes while the runner-up candidate got only 190.
Khairpur is believed to be the PPP’s stronghold. In the 2018 General Elections, the party won all three seats of the National Assembly. In the local body polls, the PPP faced a challenge from the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA). However, Parveen proved to be a dark horse, defeating both parties.
Before foraying into politics, Parveen used to do social work under the guidance of a local women’s rights activist, Shahnaz Sheikh, to resolve the issues of the masses, especially women.
According to Parveen, Shahnaz motivated her and two other women to take part in the local body polls to create a more conducive environment to further their agenda of social uplift of the downtrodden.
“I am inspired by the work of Ms. Shahnaz and her ability to resolve the problems of the oppressed without holding any position of power. I also decided that I will join politics to work for the betterment of poor labourers, and do my best to improve their living standards,” she said.
Shahnaz said that as a social worker, she used to visit door to door to get a true sense of the people’s condition, and ultimately resolved to empower women through politics.
“My purpose was to bring my colleagues (social workers) to the forefront and prepare them to contest elections so that people have the option to vote for someone from their socioeconomic class who has a better understanding of their grievances,” Shahnaz said.
Along with Parveen, Shahnaz also motivated two other women residents to take part in the polls. All three filed their nomination papers, however one candidate, Sajida Rind, was forced to withdraw from the race after her husband threatened to divorce her.
Electioneering was not an easy task for Parveen either. She faced stiff opposition from her rivals and was presented with lucrative offers to withdraw in their favour.
“People from rival camps used to come to my house and hurl abuses at me. They also threatened my father and put pressure on my brothers and husband to stop me from contesting elections,” Parveen said.
However, the intimidation only served to strengthen her resolve. She refused to bow to pressure and continued her campaign despite all difficulties.
“Actually, I got my strength from the people and especially from the women who showered me with their love. My mentor, Ms. Shahnaz, also gave me the courage and stood by me during all these times.”
On election day, Parveen staged a sit-in against alleged rigging and protested for hours until she got her hands on the official results, declaring her the winner.
Parveen considered this win as a challenge to prove to her constituents that she is different from other politicians and can make a real change in their lives.
“I will try my best to fulfill their needs and desires. I owe them a lot as they give me so much respect. Till my last breath I will fight for their rights and will never compromise,” Parveen said.