Pakistani swears in new senators, including a Hindu woman

Kumari was warmly welcomed by the lawmakers as she entered the Senate for the first time

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan swore in newly elected members of the Senate on Monday, including for the first time a woman from the country’s marginalised Hindu minority, as allegations swirled that some senators had bribed their way to become lawmakers.

But the scandals cast no shadow on a smiling Krishna Kumari, who hails from the so-called untouchables — the lowest in the caste system still prevailing in Pakistan and India. Kumari was elected from the southern Sindh province in a vote that also saw a Taliban-linked cleric defeated in the northwest despite backing by moderate parties.

Kumari was warmly welcomed by the chamber’s predominantly Muslims lawmakers as she entered the Senate for the first time Monday, making history.

Kumari, from a remote village in southern Sindh province, was among half of the lawmakers in the 104-member upper house of parliament elected to six-year terms in the March 3 vote by national and provincial assemblies, replacing those who had completed their terms. The other 52 lawmakers were elected in 2015.

Out of the 52 newly elected, 51 were sworn in on Monday while one lawmaker, Ishaq Dar, was out of the country. Dar was finance minister under former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was disqualified by the Supreme Court last July for concealing financial assets.

Under Pakistan’s two-chamber system, the Senate is separate from the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, where members are elected in a nationwide vote. The Senate is the lawmaking chamber and no constitutional bill can become a law if the upper house rejects it.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s elections overseeing body opened a probe into the allegations that political parties had paid lawmakers from rival parties to vote for their candidates. The commission is expected to announce its findings on Wednesday.

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