For the first time ever, Sidis – a minority group of Pakistanis and Indians of African origin – will be represented in Pakistan’s legislature.
Tanzeela Qambrani, a 39-year old Sidi, has been nominated to a seat reserved for women in a regional parliament in southern Sindh. Qambrani was nominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister.
Qambrani’s nomination is an important step for Sidis (or Sheedis as they are also known). They are believed to have first been brought to India and Pakistan by Arab and Portuguese slavers but despite living in both countries for centuries, Sidis are still often derided in local communities for their physical features and have faced racial discrimination in both countries. Amid enduring prejudice, Sidis have struggled to preserve their African roots and cultural links. Indeed, the exact African origins of many Sidis have been lost over the years although Qambrani says her great-grandparents were brought to Pakistan from Tanzania around a century ago.
Qambrani hopes her nomination as a lawmaker will bring the group more respect and reduce the stigma they have faced. “I look forward to the day when the name Sidi will evoke respect, not contempt,” she said.
Her nomination is the latest twist from Pakistan’s July 25 elections as cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan is set to become the new prime minister. It will become only the second time in Pakistan’s 71-year history that a democratically elected government will transfer power to another after completing its full term.