Karachi (Agenzia Fides) - Anwar Lal Dean, 62, is the first Christian senator in the province of Sindh.
Kirshna Kolhi, 39, has become the first-ever Hindu dalit woman Senator. The presence of the two members of minority groups in the assembly of the Senate of Pakistan is an encouraging sign for religious minorities.
The Senate of Pakistan, the Upper House of Parliament includes 104 elected senators with a 6-year term, but - according to a particular institutional system - elections take place every three years to renew half of the assembly, with a regional representation mechanism and some seats reserved for religious minorities.
As reported to Agenzia Fides, Pakistani Catholic Bishops expressed their congratulations. In a gathering of more than 200 people in Karachi, Archbishop Joseph Coutts said: "It is a moment of joy for our community in Karachi. We encourage the Christian senator to faithfully continue his services for the improvement and development of the government, the country and the Christian community". Anwar Lal Dean, for over 30 years in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has been president of the party wing that deals with and represents religious minorities and for 15 years has held various political positions. He began his political career in the PPP dating back to his student days. It is the first time that the PPP chooses a Christian for the Senate seat reserved for religious minorities in the province of Sindh: in the past there were politicians of the Hindu community, the main religious minority in the province. Speaking to Fides, Anwar Lal Dean said: "I renew my commitment to work with zeal and dedication for my country and for the community, I thank God for this blessing and I thank the party leaders for giving me this opportunity".
Bishop Samson Shukardin OFM, who is at the head of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad, in the Province of Sindh, comments to Fides: "I consider this an important step: we need to appreciate the PPP for making this courageous choice. I hope this decision of the PPP encourages also young Christians to actively engage in politics, in the Province of Sindh".
There is also Krishna Kohli, the first Hindu dalit woman to be elected senator, still in the PPP ranks. She is an activist committed to the defense of women's rights, and has stood out for campaigns against sexual harassment. The election of these two senators belonging to minority groups has aroused surprise in Pakistan and many observers have praised the PPP for having given space among its candidates to people belonging to the marginalized sectors of society. (AG) (Agenzia Fides, 13/4/2017)