By: Hafiz Tunio
KARACHI: “Some lose heart after suffering defeat, but I don’t care whether I win or lose. The important thing is that I have challenged a feudal lord who has always ignored women, considering them lesser mortals,” said Fatima Majeed, a fisherwoman who has challenged Jan Alam Jamote, a feudal of Ibrahim Hyderi, in the upcoming local government elections.
The influence of the Jamote family in the coastal villages of Karachi can be gauged from the fact that even men would think twice before talking against them.
The plight of women, injustice and lack of education has compelled 36-year-old Fatima to contest the elections against Jamote, a former mayor of Bin Qasim Town, whose family has always won the provincial assembly and local bodies elections from the area. “They have always won the polls from Ibrahim Hyderi, the biggest settlement of fishermen, but don’t even heed to the basic problems of its citizens,” lamented Fatima, pointing towards women carrying heavy cauldrons of water on their heads. “Look at these women. I have a dream that these women and young girls should stop fetching potable water in pots and use portable vessels instead.”
Fatima, who is the vice-chairperson of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), a representative organisation of fishermen in Pakistan, started her career as a social worker after completing her college education. Her father, Majeed Motani, a fisherman who was arrested by the Indian Maritime Security Agency in 1988, is her main source of inspiration.
Fatima is said to be the first woman of Malir, and even the costal belt of Karachi, to be contesting the election for the slot of union council (UC) chairperson from the Ibrahim Hyderi UC that falls in the Karachi district council. The latter comprises 38 UCs of Malir and district West. “Though we work hard through the platform of the PFF to bring change, there are a lot of problems that can only be addressed through mainstream politics, which is why I have stood up and challenged the bigwigs,” she said, adding that there can be no better task than to fight injustice. “These landlords have always won the MPA, MNA and district council chairperson seats from our area but have done nothing for us. One should take bold decisions, which is why I have challenged them,” she said.
In view of her popularity among the fishermen, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has allotted her a party ticket to contest the polls against the Jamote Panel. “My father has always won the councilor’s seat from here and the majority of the people in our community have encouraged me,” she said.
Fatima’s family members still rely on fishing and many of them live on islands near Karachi. Her father said they used to spend ten months of the year on islands and would return to Ibrahim Hyderi only when there was a high tide, especially in the months of June and July. He said that the elected representatives of the coastal belt have always taken votes, promising to bring change in the social lives of fishermen, but all in vain. “They visit us only on the days in the run-up to the elections. Now we have decided to field our own candidates in the local bodies’ elections, instead of toeing the line of these landlords,” he said.