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Pakistani woman makes history with run for office

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By The Associated Press
Monday, April 1, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

KHAR, Pakistan — A 40-year-old Pakistani housewife has made history by becoming the first woman to run for parliament from the country's deeply conservative tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Badam Zari is pushing back against patriarchal traditions and braving potential attack by Islamist militants in the hope of forcing the government to focus more on helping Pakistani women.

“I want to reach the assembly to become a voice for women, especially those living in the tribal areas,” Zari said in an interview on Monday. “This was a difficult decision, but now I am determined and hopeful society will support me.”

Many of Pakistan's 180 million citizens hold fairly conservative views on the role of women in society.

But those views are even more pronounced in the country's semiautonomous tribal region, a poor, isolated area in the northwest dominated by Pashtun tribesmen who follow a very conservative brand of Islam.

Most women in the tribal region are uneducated, rarely work outside the home and wear long, flowing clothes that cover most of their skin when they appear in public.

Zari, who finished high school, spoke to reporters at a news conference on Monday wearing a colorful shawl wrapped around her body and head, with only her eyes showing.

Life for women in the tribal region has become even more difficult in recent years with the growing presence of Taliban militants who use the border region as their main sanctuary in the country. The militants have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government to impose Islamic law in the country and have a history of using violence to enforce their hard-line views on women.

Last fall, Taliban fighters in the northwest shot 15-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the head in an unsuccessful attempt to kill her because she resisted the militants' views and was a strong advocate of girls' education.

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