Demand for 50pc women participation in assemblies
KARACHI: Demanding 50 per cent women representation in the assemblies and other decision-making bodies of political parties and official committees, participants of a policy dialogue on women’s participation in politics under the Political Parties Act, 2002 and the local government system on Tuesday called for reforms in the electoral process and political parties.
The dialogue was organised by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) as part of its exercise in all provinces ahead of a national conference for formulation of final recommendations.
NCSW chairperson Anis Haroon, who presided over the dialogue, expressed the view that a strong parliament and an independent election commission were key to achieving that objective as it would also ensure an effective role of women in decision-making at all levels.
She said that registration of women under the Benazir Income Support Programme had made data of a huge number of women available to political parties, which should use this opportunity to register them as voters and work for their empowerment. Participants, including representatives of various political parties, complained that they were not fairly treated by the country’s male-dominated system and were not being made part of the decision-making bodies of their respective parties. It was noted that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had instilled lot of confidence among women through her courageous struggle for democracy but after her assassination they felt having been neglected and sidelined.
It was stressed that the election commission should not allow political parties not holding party elections to take part in national provincial and local elections. The idea of double constituency was also mooted out.
Participants agreed to a set of recommendations to enhance women participation and empowerment in governance and society. Some of them are as follows:
It is noted that patriarchal values and customary practices still prohibit or ignore registration of women as voters. It is, therefore, recommended that registration of at least 50 per cent women as voters should be made obligatory for election in any constituency; the responsibility may be put on Nadra officials and major political parties.
Women voters may have different incentives to cast their ballot and hence different choice of political parties and candidates which, however, go unnoticed as their votes are not counted and displayed separately in the final results. It is strongly recommended that the women’s votes be counted and displayed separately in the final elections results.
For the seats reserved for women, it is recommended that the Election Commission of Pakistan should make it mandatory for each political party to prepare and implement a separate code and conduct for their women wings and for selection of women candidate in the general elections. Such a system is supposed to promote active women in politics on the principle of equal opportunities.
It is also recommended that political parties must ensure that their women members are consulted on party issues such as preparing and amending party manifestoes, issuing their policy on important national issues and bills meant for legislation.
Women parliamentarians on reserved seats, or those lacking constituencies, are discriminated upon in terms of development funds. The government should ensure that women parliamentarians get their due development funds. Most of development fund at the disposal of women legislators elected on reserved seats is taken away by the party and used in other areas. These legislators are simply told to follow the party line as they don’t represent any constituency.
It is recommended that the government should evaluate and implement a system of direct elections on the reserved seats to provide women legislators more political legitimacy.
Various amendments to the existing laws on the reserved seats for women from Fata and federal capital territory are needed. It is suggested that a law should be framed to make it mandatory for Fata representatives to elect female candidates on reserved seats. In this context, it is recommended that the government should insert clear guidelines in the electoral laws and the Political Parties Act against inking of any agreement by a ‘jirga’ or ‘panchayat’ to restrict women from voting and contesting elections.
The election commission should ensure that women are free to cast vote, contest elections and run the election campaign; if otherwise, the election in such constituencies should be postponed and results, if out, be declared null and void.
The voter registration should be linked with Nadra registration.
Despite having a huge administrative and management set-up, the government has an almost negligible number of women employees. It is recommended that the government and the election commission should recruit more women.
It is also recommended that more women legislators should be inducted in the ministries, standing committees and other parliamentary committees and decision-making bodies of elected houses.
During the course of the discussion, it was observed that political parties are reluctant to support quota of general seats for women as the partiesÂ’ main concern is acquiring money and power which is more easily achievable in case of a male candidate.
There is a realisation to some extent that women are ignored in the decision-making process. Women political workers who are part of the political struggle are generally ignored at the time of awarding party tickets.
The current system of reserved seats is not suitable for women political workers who work genuinely as only those women mostly get party tickets who enjoy contacts and links with the top party leadership.
It was also proposed that a speaker or a deputy speaker in all legislatures should be a woman and there should be a 33 per cent quota for women in political partiesÂ’ elected committees.