MUZZAFERGARH, Pakistan - Wearing a round white cap as a symbol of humbleness and riding a donkey cart, a Pakistani candidate is campaigning in the north-eastern town of Muzzafergarh to take from landlords to serve interests of the poor.
I am not a fair-weather friend, Jamshed Dasti told OnIslam.net.
I had always been with my voters, and they know, Inshaullah I will always be with them.
Dubbed as Robin Hood by locals because of his social services, Dasti, a son of an illiterate laborer and a part-time wrestler, is campaigning in the May 11 elections in Muzzafergarb in the southern province of Punjab.
Riding a donkey cart, Dasti accorded a rousing welcome by his supporters when he arrived the district court to file his nomination papers against a traditional winner of the constituency from NA_177 Muzzafergarh.
I am not like those feudal lords who come to see them only when they need their votes, and after elections they return to their cozy palaces in Lahore and Islamabad, he said.
But this time, this political legacy is not going to work. The downtrodden people of Muzzafergarh have decided to get rid of the slavery of feudal lords.
Wearing a round white cap as a symbol of humbleness, Dasti shot to limelight during massive floods that inundated almost one-fifth of Pakistan in 2010.
He was one of very few legislators who not only remained in his constituency, but exploited his own resources to rescue the stranded people.
He plied a ferry service from his own resources to rescue the stranded people in the low-lying areas of the district, where government personnel failed to reach.
Hailing from ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Dasti had applied for the party ticket from NA-177, but the party ticket was granted to Pakistan's first woman foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar who belongs to a powerful feudal family of southern Punjab province.
However, Khar reportedly sensing a tough competition, refused to contest and withdrew in favor of his father, a veteran politician who had won various elections in the past.
Severing his two decades long affiliation with the PPP, Dasti vowed to take on Khar's father.
Days are gone when these feudal lords could influence or befool the voters, he said.
They now remember who stood alongside them in testing time, and who left them.
Robin Hood is a heroic outlaw in English folklore, a highly skilled archer and swordsman.
He has become known for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, assisted by a group of fellow outlaws known as his Merry Men.
Dasti, who had served as community leader and a district council member before getting elected as parliamentarian, is widely loved by residents, especially the poor class.
We consider him amongst us, Ghulam Shabbir, a laborer who also happens to be Dasti's neighbor, told OnIslam.net.
Unlike a majority of Pakistani parliamentarians, Dasti still lives in a small house in a rutted street of Muzzafergarh.
We do not have to run from here and there to locate him. He is just one phone call away from us, said Shabbir, a die-hard supporter of Dasti and one of beneficiaries of free bus service.
And if he does not pick your call, you can simply knock on his door.
This is not exaggerated. This is true that you can wake him up in the wee hours, and he will go with you for your work, he added, referring to police raids which are often conducted in the midnight to arrest the accused.
Hailing from a poor family, Dasti has persuaded the local community to contribute to his welfare projects, particularly the free bus service.
I cannot afford the fuel and maintenance of the bus fleet as I belong to a lower middle-class family. We are running this service on help-yourself basis, Dasti said.
Each laborer and community member contribute a monthly amount that is fixed in accordance with his financial position to help Dasti carry out his welfare projects.I am from here, and I will live here Inshaullah, that's why I have devised a long-term strategy to keep these project continue no matter I am there nor not. The community will continue them.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net