The first-ever woman candidate contesting in general elections from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas


Badam Zari, the first woman to contest for the National Assembly seat from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

"I decided to serve the people of FATA to the best of my ability," said Badam Zari, National Assembly Candidate from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Highlights

  • More than 330,000 polling staff trained in Punjab.
  • More than 17,000 police officials trained in election security.
  • Around 40 million people reached through a voter education campaign via the media, social media and civil society organizations.
  • Elections results database created containing results from polling stations.
  • Currently UNDP is assisting Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct lessons-learning from the May 2013 elections.

Badam Zari, 45, is the first-ever woman candidate contesting in the May 11 general elections from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A total of 4,670 candidates are contesting for 272 seats in the National Assembly. Out of this, only 161 are women. Zari is one of them and she decided to campaign as an independent candidate, without any political affiliation.

Raised in Mardan, Zari moved to Bajaur agency, FATA after marriage. Her husband, Noor Muhammad, is a principal at a local school. FATA is one of the poorest and least developed regions of Pakistan. More than fifty percent of the households fall below the poverty line. On life in FATA, Zari said, "I deeply regret not being educated. Therefore, my mission is to get our future generation, especially girls educated. Everything is easy, if you want to take it easy. If you make things difficult for yourself, everything becomes difficult. But in my opinion, the biggest problem in FATA is lack of education. This should be resolved for both boys and girls. She believes education is the answer to every problem, especially for women. "If women are educated, all our problems would be resolved. It is said that the first seminary for a child is the lap of her/his mother. So if mothers are educated and aware, they would be able to guide their children in the right direction," she said.

Zari's family, especially her husband's father and brothers supported her decision to contest in the elections. She said, "It would not have been possible to prepare for the elections on her own. She is accompanied by her husband, cousins, and nieces during the election campaign as they visit households in Bajaur.

She is optimistic about her chances of winning in the elections and said the response she received from the people in her constituency has been positive. She said it is better to contest as an independent candidate as it gives her flexibility in decision making as she is not compelled to follow the advice of any political party. Even if she faces defeat, she would continue her mission of improving the socioeconomic conditions of FATA. This includes improving basic facilities of health and education. Water access is one of the biggest problems in her town. She wants to ensure that funds are allocated towards building infrastructure and providing employment to people. Zari said "People should be self-reliant. We should try to resolve our own problems."

UNDP is providing assistance to the election commission in areas including training of polling staff and security personnel, results management and voter education through a three-year electoral cycle support project supported by the Governments of Australia, Norway, Japan, United States, Switzerland and the European Union. With the support of UNDP, ECP has launched a voter-education campaign targeted at inclusion of youth and women, as well as a new elections results management system for upcoming national and provincial elections.

With the support of UNDP, ECP has launched a voter education campaign targeted at inclusion of youth and women, as well as a new elections results management system for upcoming national and provincial elections. Phase II of the project would commence after the general elections and focus on longer term capacity strengthening of the ECP, improvements to the electoral process, civic education and local government elections.