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October 12, 2018

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PK-78 Peshawar election

PK-78 Peshawar election

Circumstances forced Samar Haroon Bilour to enter active politics

By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: Even though Samar Haroon Bilour belongs to a political family both from her father and father-in-law’s side, she had never imagined she will be entering active politics and contesting an election.

However, all this changed when her husband, Haroon Bashir Bilour, was martyred in a suicide bombing when he was attending an election campaign meeting in Peshawar’s Yakatoot locality on July 10. With no eligible male member of the Bilour family left to contest the election from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly constituency, PK-78 Peshawar, she had to step in to continue the Bilours’ legacy.

“I certainly had an interest in politics. Being the eldest daughter of a politician and eldest daughter-in-law of another politician, I had been following politics and taking part in the election campaign among women voters for the male candidates from the Bilour family. I was also offered a reserved assembly seat for women, but I declined as politics can disturb one’s family life,” she recalled.

Samar Haroon Bilour is the Awami National Party (ANP) candidate for the October 14 election from PK-78, the Bilour family’s constituency from which her husband was contesting the July 25 general election. Her late father-in-law, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, had also been contesting and often winning from this constituency until his martyrdom in a suicide bombing in Peshawar in December 2012.

Her father Irfanullah Khan Marwat too is a well-known politician, having won election for the Sindh Assembly from Karachi and served as a provincial minister a number of times. He is the son-in-law of late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who served as President of Pakistan. The Marwat family originally belongs to Lakki Marwat district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Samar Haroon Bilour, who got married when she was 18 years old after having qualified Senior Cambridge A Level in Karachi, said her family twice became the victim of terrorism as it first lost Bashir Bilour who was the senior minister at the time in the ANP-led provincial government and then Haroon Bilour, her husband for 22 years. “We don’t know the killers and cannot take revenge as we believe in non-violence. By speaking out against terrorism and due to our belief in democracy, we are recording silent protest against the terrorists,” she argued.

While conceding that she cannot emulate Haroon Bilour 100 percent even though she was contesting from his seat, Samar Haroon Bilour said she would consider it an achievement if she could fulfill the hopes of ANP workers and supporters by 50 percent. “If elected, I want to do something for the families of party workers and sympathizers who were martyred in the attack on Haroon Bilour. I want to help educate their children and look after their medical care needs. I also want to do my bit to develop Peshawar,” she added.

Hopeful of victory, she pointed out that she was in ‘Iddat’ mourning the death of her husband and was thus unable to campaign publicly in her Peshawar constituency. She campaigned from her home and used the mainstream and social media to send across her message to the voters. The Bilour family head Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, her 21-year old son Danyal Bilour, her father Irfanullah Marwat, her mother-in-law and other family members campaigned for her.

“My elder son Danyal has passion for politics and is already active in the ANP and its youth wing. My younger son Bassim too has interest in politics,” she remarked.

Samar Haroon Bilour expressed gratitude to the opposition parties including the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F for backing her candidature on their own. However, the ruling PTI has fielded Irfan Khan, who belongs to a prominent political family from Peshawar, against her.

She said ANP didn’t seek PTI’s support even though Imran Khan was reported to have made a statement after Haroon Bilour’s death that his party won’t put up a candidate in PK-78 against her widow. “It is their choice. We are ready for the contest. I am proud that I am the first woman candidate in Peshawar contesting for a general seat against male rivals,” she added.

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