Women parliamentarians from all political parties under the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) adopted a historic declaration to protect and preserve the provisions of reserved seats for women in the national assembly, senate and the provincial assemblies in Pakistan. It also urges upon the political parties to select women on direct elections and to increase their representation on leadership positions within political parties and other political forums.
The Women’s Parliamentary Caucus adopted this declaration during a round table conference on 29th of September, 2011, which was supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung-HBS
This roundtable conference, entitled, “Strengthening Women’s Representation in Political and Legislative Process”, was attended by participants from across the country i.e. representatives and senior office bearers of political parties (PPP,PML-N,PML-Q,PML-F,MQM and AJK), members of the national and provincial assemblies, human and women rights activists, academia, NGOs representatives and media.
Secretary WPC Dr. Nafisa Shah opened the inaugural session by introducing the conference themes and its purpose. She recognized the crucial role of the speaker national assembly Dr. Fehmida Mirza for encouraging women parliamentarians to play their due space in the business of the house. She also highlighted the need to have quotas for women not only within the legislatures but also within the political parties for granting them tickets in the general elections.
The chief guest, Deputy Chairman Senate, Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali, in his speech, highlighted the potential and role of women in the legislative business over the years in Pakistan. He showed his concern on the existing unequal number of women and men in the legislature and recommended 33% representation of women in legislative assemblies.
It was also told that women hold 17.5% special reserved seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan, but with the addition of directly elected women this percentage amounts to 19%. However according to data the performance of women in the legislative business radically exceeds their numbers.
Session one was on “Women within Political Parties' Structures in Pakistan-Role and Positioning”. Dr. Nafisa Shah moderated it.
Here senior representatives of each political party were briefly introduced and were asked to present their party perspectives on the promotion of women politicians within their respective parties and in internal decision making process.
Each party spoke about their mandate and shared their views about the role of women within their party and in decision making process.
All agreed that all political parties should review their rules and respective structures to include women in the decision-making processes and also allow quota for granting tickets for women for the general elections. Leaders of all political parties consented that there is a need to review their respective party structures. There should be clear rules for greater inclusion and women on leadership positions. They also agreed to build consensus within their respective parties to provide a minimum of 10% quota for women on winnable seats before the next elections.
Session one further included two presentations by experts. Joint Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Mr. Sher Afghan presented on Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), on "Provision for Women's Representation in Political Party Act, Election Laws, and other Laws" .
Mr. Naeem Mirza, a leading women rights activist and chief operating officer of Aurat Foundation, presented on "Benchmarks for Success: Women in Electoral System, Political Parties and Quotas-An overview of the International best Practices". He said that 90 countries have quota system in their countries but reserved seats system is only in Africa and Asia. In Tanzania it has been decided that political parties could submit list of candidate which will comprise of 50% women for the next election.
Session two was held on the topic “Women's Representation in Legislative Assemblies-Issues and Challenges”. MNA Ms. Bushra Gohar moderated it.
MNA Gohar talked about women's presence and meaningful role in the parliament. She said that now women parliamentarians have started moving and initiating dialogues and debate on the issue of women's role and presence in legislature process.
After her remarks Dr. Farzana Bari, a leading women and human rights activist and Chairperson of Gender Studies Department of Quaid-e-Azam University spoke on "Women in Legislative Assemblies; Existing Quota System-Opportunities and Options. She presented a critical analysis of women's existing representation in the legislative assemblies in Pakistan.
Ms. Anis Haroon, Chairperson, National Commission on Status Women was invited to present her views on the “Role of Women in Legislative Assemblies in Pakistan”. She gave a historical perspective on women's political struggle from 1947 to 1999 and focused especially on General Zia's era and women's struggle for the restoration of reserved seats. She also raised critical questions on the identity of women parliamentarians –Do they themselves look as a women or as a politician?, internal party accountability systems and specifically asked why they did not support their colleagues when they moved the bill to repeal the Blasphemy Law in the national assembly.
MNA Ishrat Ashraf chaired the concluding session, while MNA Yasmeen Rehman moderated it. Here the participants adopted a declaration and announced to present its recommendations before the National assembly for further support.
At the end Dr. Nafisa Shah especially thanked HBS for funding this conference.
Media Coverage :Women demand 10pc share in party tickets (Dawn)