Shattering the Glass Ceiling

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Shattering the Glass Ceiling


First female tehsil mayorship candidate in South Waziristan ushers in a new era for tribal women

The sudden change in the weather across the country is also accompanied by the changing political atmosphere in Pakistan. The political environment in a feverish state due to the activism of the opposition parties against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government. Although relatively safe from the political mayhem witnessed in the Centre and in the Punjab province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is going through a different political mode as March 31, 2020 the election date of the second phase of the local body elections approaches.

This second phase will include elections in the remaining 18 districts, including four tribal districts. A total of 29,338 candidates will contest the elections, including at least 651 candidates for the Tehsil mayoral and chairmanship seats. Besides a large number of general and youth candidates, an encouraging 3,021 female candidates will also contest local body elections for the dedicated seats for women. However, only two female candidates have emerged as contestants for tehsil chairmanship seats. In the three sub-divisions or tehsils of South Waziristan, 778 candidates including 140 females are contesting in the upcoming local body elections. There are a total of 43 mayorship candidates in Wana, Sarwakai and Ladha.

The nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) gave a party ticket to a female candidate Khadeeja in Chitral. However, it’s the female contestant from the restive South Waziristan Tribal District who’s making the headlines. Razia Mehsud, an enthusiastic journalist who spent over five years in the journalism, highlighting the plight of her own district and other tribal districts, has decided to challenge cultural norms in the male-centric tribal society by contesting for the mayorship of her hometown Ladha, a sub-division in South Waziristan. Razia Mehsud will try her luck against nine male candidates in Ladha, including independent candidate Abdul Majeed Lagri as the favourite, besides Taj Malook of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Riaz of PTI and Noor Hassan Mehsud of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Razia Mehsud is contesting from the platform of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Islahat, a local political party headed by Al Haaj Shah G Gul Afridi, a known philanthropist and tribal elder from Khyber tribal district.

“While working in journalism, I witnessed the struggles of the people in the tribal areas. Our youth are deprived of education and recreational facilities, our people have little access to health and other facilities, our women suffer the most and they are always kept out of the decision-making process and one of the main reasons behind all this is the unawareness and lack of interest of our elected representatives. That’s why I decided to come into politics,” informed Razia. Initially, she wanted to contest as an independent candidate but soon after she started attracting an increasing number of supporters in her election campaign, she was spotted by the district leaders of the political party and was invited to Islamabad to meet other females who had won elections from the same party platform. “The party wants to work on education, unity and social uplift of tribal people, and they want to encourage the discouraged and deprived people of the tribal areas to become better Pakistanis. I immediately knew I have come to the right place despite knowing that only a handful of people in Waziristan knew about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Islahat,” she detailed.

This is not the first time Razia Mehsud has dared challenge the restrictions on women’s involvement in communal activities. She became the first domestic female journalist in Waziristan to actually cover stories on the ground in 2016 when her district and native town were gripped by terrorism. “I was discouraged by many people at every step in my journalistic career. My parents would get pressurised by relatives, villagers and other unknown people. Now my decision to contest the elections is another reason for people to make me and my family suffer further. Fortunately, I hail from an educated family that has always encouraged and supported me in my adventurous endeavours,” Razia told Bol News.


Razia’s father is a retired principal of Degree College Ladha and her elder brother is a lawyer at the provincial high court. Her strength also comes from her husband Muhammad Kamran Atlas who has also remained her citizen journalism teammate since their marriage in 2011.

“My father and husband have a great role in my success. My husband is also my producer and cameraman who has supported me in all my work in the past decade. His encouragement is my reason for continuing my journey,” Razia Mehsud added.

“People know how committed Razia has been in highlighting their issues on different mainstream media and social media platforms. She has proved wrong the perception that a working woman doesn’t care about cultural and religious obligations. Many people, including friends and family who used to criticise us in the beginning, are now our strongest supporters,” Kamran Atlas, who holds a master’s degree in political sciences informed Bol News. Farooq Mehsud, who himself is a mid-career journalist from South Waziristan believes that Razia Mehsud has already become a role model for many young girls and women in her district. “It was unthinkable for women to even vote, let alone contest in elections in the terrorism torn region. Razia has changed that perspective forever as we see many females coming up to the light in different fields, including politics. She single-handedly highlighted issues faced by women, and seeing her achievements has encouraged many girls to pursue higher education,” Farooq Mehsud expressed.

Razia Mehsud was initially discouraged by her opponents, citing that females could not achieve anything in politics in Waziristan. However, with her growing popularity, she started receiving offers for a party ticket and later her opponents started offering her money in return for withdrawing her candidacy in their support. “My opponents would say that they have funds, power and party support to buy votes while I had none of those leverages. Different tactics were used to pressurise me but I believe my mission is much more than just attracting votes, I want to make the women of my area competitive in all walks of life,” Razia articulated.

“It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, my main goal is to create awareness among women that they can pursue their dreams in any environment. I think I have achieved that as I am getting overwhelming support from men and women alike. Instead of going to them for the vote, many people come to my house to pledge their support and encouragement.”


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