Pakistan elects 1st female senator from Hindu Dalit caste


ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan elected its first female senator from the lowest Hindu Dalit ("untouchable") caste over the weekend, in polls that also saw the ruling party strengthen its hand ahead of general elections in the country.

Opposition candidate Krishna Kumari Kohli's surprise victory stirred a wave of optimism on social media, as Pakistanis celebrated the rare win for a woman from a marginalised community that lies at the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy.

"I feel proud; I am thankful to the Pakistan People Party [PPP] that they nominated me," Kohli told AFP Sunday (March 4).

"Kudos to PPP for electing #KrishnaKohli.... Our parliament should have representatives of all religions, classes and genders in pursuit of true democracy," tweeted rights activist Jibran Nasir.

Pakistan's Hindus, who make up about 2% of the country's 200 million people, have long faced economic and social discrimination.

Kohli's win followed a secret round of voting by members of the parliament and provincial assemblies, in what is largely seen as insider horse trading ahead of elections due this summer.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 15 seats in the 104-seat senate, securing a total of 33 spots, which along with support from allies all but earns the party a dominating majority in the upper chamber.

The PPP won the second largest number of seats in the contest, while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party continued to lose momentum, coming in third.

"Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has secured a clear majority in the senate polls," PML-N announced late Saturday (March 3) on its official Twitter account.

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