Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pakistan Happenings :Women In Political Pakistan.

Women  In Political Pakistan.
An interactive Article  By  Dr Meher Zaidi
Pakistan has entered the middle of the 21st century ill prepared and poorly armed to face the gigantly immense challenges facing its polity, political future and economic well being. Its literacy rate not being improved as much as it should have been. The quality and quantity of education has not been up to a standard increasing competence and direction for development to take place.
More than 50% of population in Pakistan is women and girls. They are laborers, agricultural workers (Haris, tillers ), teachers, doctors, nurses, scientists etc.  They are amongst the most suppressed, vulnerable groups facing social sanctions, religious prejudice, inequality, gender discrimination, violence, economic prejudice and political suppression. Pakistan must understand that in order to increase its Competitiveness Index it needs to fast track its policies for women development and empowerment and bring Women’s Issues in mainstream politics. 

 In an enlightening interview in Herald (October 2002,, Ms. Hina Jilani ,in an answer to a question as to how will the increase in women’s seats in the parliament be beneficial,  says that the increase will help understand women’s problems better  and also erase the discrimination against women.She was critical of the small number of seats sanctioned at the time and said that she stood for bringing women’s issues in mainstream politics. This is an issue which has matured for open debate now in Pakistan. Mr Imran Khan is now emphasizing on good governance, corruption free society, rule of law. He has to bring these issues in mainstream political arena. This issue of bringing Women’s issues in mainstream has to be seen in the paradigm of Economic Dynamism and  Competitiveness.

Akhtar Ali in his new book Pakistan’s Development Challenges, Federalism, Security & Governance , writes in the chapter “Competition & Competitiveness”  that “Competitiveness in international markets & elsewhere would come about first from promoting  social mobility, reducing invisible barriers, eliminating class monopoly, releasing millions of human beings from social bondage of one form or the other. It is not just the poverty and economic conditions; it is the socio-political apparatus that may have to be overhauled. The politics of corruption and favoritism must end. “ He further elaborates how this disparity can be bridged over .
 My emphasis is on bringing the over  50% female population into the picture. As said by the learned author unless  the labor wages are brought out of the “cheap, low” paradigm into international competition , the issues of poverty, falling out of competition and social mobility will not be resolved. Both industrial and business community needs to understand the politics of competition and international competitiveness and of course the female input in economic productivity.
Agriculture contributes 26% to the GDP in Pakistan. The agriculture worker ( and thank God agriculture in Pakistan is neither fully mechanized and corporatized) is underpaid, overworked and un-insured. The women due to increased vulnerability (pregnancy, childbirth, nutritional deficiency, low literacy, social practices, lack of easy access to justice, population overload in family unit, poverty) also contribute to low agricultural productivity. This needs to be again addressed as a mainstream political issue.
 Akhtar Ali again in his forthcoming book (available on Amazon, emphasizes Land Reform Package  and Water Rights. These will surely improve the socio-economic conditions of rural population in general and women in particular. These suggestions on land reforms are not those that bring about social turmoil as envisaged by some  Tehrik- e- Insaaf politicians in public discourse. They are viable and doable options as presented in his book in detail.
Benazir Income Support Program is one such program which intends to bring about some fiscal relief to women and poor families in Pakistan. .  Their Waseela –e –Taleem program is scheduled to be launched in early 2012 but it seems that Pakistan due to its extremely bad luck has once again embroiled itself in issues like the memo gate and the NRO whereby the incumbent government instead of focusing on these social sector programs is again on the defensive and its  attention divided. This program should continue and be part of the policy programs by whoever forms the new government. Pakistan needs to continue its   development and social emancipation policies.
Another point to be emphasized is that whenever there is discussion and debate on the issues of development aid , the politicians start a verbal diarrhea against aid as if it is pariah dog. Aid in the context of social development has to be taken from the international community because due to our fat defense budget we are not allocating any funds for social sector development. Till such time we are generating these funds ourselves we will have this chicken –egg  problem of low social indicators (Poverty, health, literacy and education) and Pakistan’s inability to come out of its problems (Failed State, Lack of Freedom etc).
As Pakistan enters the middle of this century aware of its problems and its people are aware of the solutions to bring about an egalitarian  change in its politics, armed with education and economic vibrancy, the people who paint a doomsday picture will be dis-illusioned.  Pakistan’s judiciary, armed forces and above all politicians need to understand the emergency of bringing the politics of women in the mainstream.

Update 20th January,2012 : DAWN newspaper headlines Women's Commission Bill Passed By National Assembly .The significance of passing this bill at this time is that an even groundwork is available to remove the hurdles and barrriers of socio-economic and social injustices to provide a smooth transition of the women polity in development and economic prosperity.This bill is a major step by the parliamentarians to improve the lot of women in Pakistan. The government with its allies and the opposition has made it possible now for the women issues to be handled by a more adequate and informed class of individuals to handle the women's issues and fast track the issues instead of slow pace of work which took decades to be resolved.Its preamble highlights the understanding the parliamentarians have of the issues and we hope that democratic dispensation of the governments will continue in future.
 “promotion of social, economic, political and legal rights of women” as provided in the Constitution and “in accordance with international declarations, conventions, treaties, conventions and agreements relating to women, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women”.

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