May 282015

PESHAWAR: Although he believes politics is a game of the wealthy, 40-year-old Javed Hussain, a street vendor, has decided to test the waters. He will be among the thousands of candidates contesting a seat in the local government set-up that K-P’s residents will elect on May 30.

Hussain is a well-known face in the narrow streets of Kachi Mohallah where he is known as “Plastic wala chacha.” The name comes from how he makes his livelihood to provide for his five-member family. Hussain sells plastic utensils; carrying them in a large sack over his shoulder, the vendor roams the city’s streets chanting plastic ke bartan (plastic utensils) to attract potential buyers.

Hussain’s day starts with Fajr prayers when he sets out to sell his wares. When LG polls were announced in the province, Hussain decided to contest and with the aim to serve his neighbours, the 40-year-old filed his nomination for peasants/workers seat in the neighbourhood council from Pir Gulab Shah in Hashtnagri.

A team effort

“My family and friends asked me to stand in the elections and they are supporting me in campaigning, both financially and by canvassing voters,” Hussain told The Express Tribune.

After he finishes his work for the day, Hussain, his friends and other aspirants gather at an astana in Qadeem Imambargah around 3pm and plan ahead for the day. Then in a group of eight, they go door to door asking for votes. “We campaign in groups because it is easier to influence people,” said Malik Adil Zada who is contesting a youth seat from the neighbourhood which comprises Nishtarabad, Sikandarpura and Hashtnagri.

“We are workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) since my grandfather’s time, so I am contesting with support from the tripartite alliance of PPP, ANP and JUI-F,” said Hussain.

A candidate for village or neighbourhood council has to have around Rs25,000 to spend on electioneering, an amount Hussain feels he cannot afford to spend as he earns around Rs500 every day. “I am a poor man and earn for my children. If the day goes well, they eat, if it does not, they have to fast.”

However, it seems the vendor has quite a number of well-wishers. His friends who encouraged him to contest have been paying his campaigning expenses. “They divided the cost among themselves, someone paid for the cards, the other for posters and so forth,” he said.

The lack of money does not deter Hussain who is confident he will win a workers seat even though he has stiff competition from PTI-backed candidates. “Everyone knows me by name and face. Every house in this locality would have kitchen utensils I sold them. I know these streets inch by inch,” said Hussain.

He added if elected he would work on improving the locality’s drainage system and providing clean drinking water – the major problems residents are facing.

“I have grown up here. This was a slum area which is why it is called Kachi Mohallah,” said Hussain. “Many governments have come and gone but our problems have remained ignored, despite repeated written requests. Now, it is time to change our fate with self-help.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2015.

The post Joining the fray: From street vendor to politician appeared first on The Express Tribune.

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