Mai Jori Jamali (Mijori) lives in Goth Ghulam Mohammad Jamali. She is an illiterate mother of nine children. She travels 2 kilometers to fetch water for her family. She and her husband farm a small piece of agricultural land. Mai Jori is also a candidate in the Baluchistan Assembly bye-elections for the PB-25 Jaffarabad-1 seat.
Reportedly, she hails from the village/area where, in 2008, three young women were brutally and barbarically buried alive on the pretext of criminal ‘honor killings’ which, in fact, were baighairati personified. Readers would remember how we were all horrified even further when two sitting senators – Israrullah Zehri and Jan Mohammad Jamali – shamed all of Pakistan by actually defended this horrible act in the Senate in the name of ‘culture.’
The PB-25 Jaffarabad-1 (old Nasirabad-1) seat became vacant after the killing of Baluchistan Minister for Excise and Taxation Sardarzada Rustam Jamali and the elections for the seat will be held on March 10. Mai Jori is running for this seat on a ticket from the Awami Party Pakistan, and she appeared before the Returning Officer accompanied by her proposers and seconders and her papers were found complete; her covering candidate, Abdul Karim, also appeared with her.
If you have not heard much about this till now, you are not alone. I first got to know of this through blogger TeethMaestro’s blog and through him to a story in the Weekly Pulse. In trying to get more details, I was amazed at just how little was there. There is little to nothing in the national English press. At least I have not been able to find even a list of who the official candidates are. The one newspaper account I found was a story from ARY News about how two of the candidates have “demanded ban on exhibition of arms, saying that conspiracies were in place to overcome the ballot power through bullet.”
The candidates in question are Mir Atta Ullah Bulledi – seemingly the front-runner who is an independent candidate, who seemingly has past links to the PPP but is now supported by the Muslim League (N), Sardar Fateh Ali Umrani, Ex-Federal Minister Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind and Sardar Dhani Bux Lashari – and Abdul Hakeem Memon of JUI (Fazal) who claim “that voters are being threatened with arms and large number of armed men are arriving in the constituency to intimidate the voters, thus increasing chances of tribal clash in the region.” The PPP candidate, it seems, is Nasir Khan Jamali. Mir Atta Ullah Bulledi had also contested for the seat in the 2008 elections and lost to Sardarzada Rustam Jamali but had contested that result alleging that the later had “abducted his polling agents and allegedly rigged the elections with the connivance of election agents.”
Little as there is on any of the candidates in the national press, there seems to be nothing at all on Mai Jori.
According to clips found on discussion lists it is clear that activists in the Awami Party Pakistan have encouraged her to run and support her stand to show that feudal connections and money can be defeated even in electoral politics and also to show that despite what Senator from the area might think is their culture, women of the area are willing and able to stand for their rights (also here). According to Weekly Pulse, Mai Jori “says she is contesting the elections due to the unsatisfactory performance of the elected representatives. She holds the sardars and feudal lords responsible for lack of clean drinking water and basic health facilities in the area.” According to TeethMaestro “Mai Jori and her relatives have taken this decision to dare to fight with outdated customs of women brutality in the region.”
Elections anywhere in Pakistan are a game of money. In this particular area it is a matter not just of money but also feudal power. Mai Jori has neither. Yet, she and her supporters seem to have boldness in spades. A first indication of this was available even before she filed her papers. Read, with care, this excerpt of a report of the meeting in which she was chosen as the candidate and a strategy for her election was devised (dollar conversions are mine):
A campaign for fund collection will be initiated in the constitutency and voters of the constituency will be approached to contribute financially in the campaign and vote for Mai Jori as well. Appeal to democratic and progressive people will also be issued for their contributions. Participants of the meeting contributed and collected an amount of Rs: 3407- (US$40) on the occasion. In same kind of meeting held on January 29th, 30th, and 31st the participants contributed Rs: 4,550- (US$53), Rs: 1,550- (US$18), Rs: 2,200- (US$26) that becomes total amount of Rs: 11,707- (US$138). Out of that contributions an amount of Rs: 7120/- (US$84) has been spent that include Rs: 4000- (US$47) for election fees, travel from village to RO office at district head quarter, nomination papers and submission process. An amount of Rs: 4,587- (US$54) remains with campaign committee committee.
By contrast, the Weekly Pulse report talks of a recent visit by the Prime Minister to the area (where he also gave the party tickets to the PPP candidates) where he announced a “special package” of Rs. 500 million (US$5.88 million, or US$5,880,000) for the national assembly constituency of which this provincial constituency is also a part (bye-elections will also be held soon for the national assembly constituency).
Does Mai Jori and the Awami Party Pakistan have a strategy to counter the clout and resources she is up against? Idealistic as it might be, they do. According to TeethMaestro the plan is for a “a door to door Haqooq March (Rights’ March) on 1st March to the 8th of March”:
Awami Party leader Ramzan Memon said that â€œMai Jori will prove that politics even election politics is possible with money and high level patronization. Mai Jori will lead the long march by foot from village to village as part of election campaign against Pajeros and high level influence. They also demanded from the government to ensure enabling environment so that Mai Jori can feel herself safe during election campaign and in future too.â€
All reports suggest that Mir Atta Ullah Bulledi remains the front-runner and his most likely threat will come from Nasir Khan Jamali of PPP. However, no matter what the result is we will be keeping a close eye on and rooting for Mai Jori. For the stand that she is taking, and for all that she stands for!
ATP Editors Choice: Also see “Jennifer Musa (1917-2008): The Queen of Baluchistan”