Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Pakistan: Parties vow to improve women’s status following WELDD convention

Published Date: 
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Source: 
Shirkat Gah

The following article appeared in the Lahore newspaper 'The News' on September 30th 2014, after Shirkat Gah - Women's Resource Centre held their Convention on Peace, Pluralism, and Democratic Norms under the auspices of the WELDD programme. 

LAHORE

Political leaders from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday said they were committed to improving the status of women and other marginalised groups at a convention of an NGO on Peace, Pluralism, and Democratic Norms here at Alhamra. 

Addressing the gathering of women rights activists and 150 women from all over Pakistan, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said he felt equally a part of Purple Women’s Movement, a collective of women working under Shirkat Gah, to increase female political participation in the country. Ahsan Iqbal said the progress and advancement of any country can be judged by the respect given to women by society and the opportunities available for their empowerment. He said the PML-N government is striving for economic improvement of women and vulnerable people by launching a small loans scheme under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The minister said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government had included plans to help women under their Vision 2025 and would seek to eradicate female illiteracy in Pakistan. Ahsan Iqbal said within the last five decades female enrollment in schools and universities had doubled and this was a positive development. The PML-N leader said 110 schools had been established in Punjab with 70 of these educational institutions dedicated to girls.

Responding to ‘Go Nawaz Go’ chants in the hall, the minister said political leaders in the country should encourage their followers to embody the values of respect and not lead them towards dangerous radicalisation. He said PTI had the last fifteen months to deliver their promises in KPK but had failed to even fix a pothole in the province. He said Dharnas were dangerous to Pakistan’s growth as democracy and policy continuity is central to the achievement of economic growth. He said the previous PPP government had completed five years in power and this had led to Pakistan being appreciated as a responsible, mature democracy on the international stage.

The planning minister, later talking to the press outside, said the government is not interested in using force against sit-in protesters as it is not in favour of violence and expects both PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to play politics of dead bodies. He said the government as a gesture of goodwill had decided to let jailed PAT protesters spend Eid holidays with their families. He said sit-ins had destabilised Pakistan’s economy as the President of China had delayed his visit and said Imran Khan should inculcate values of good sportsmanship in his supporters.

PPP Senator Saeed Ghani addressing the audience said his own family had examples of women who had sacrificed for their loved ones. Ghani said his grandmother had sent his father to college with money raised from stitching clothes and due to her contribution he grew to have a successful career in politics. Senator Ghani said late PPP chairwoman Benazir Bhutto had been an extraordinary role model for female empowerment and her legacy is being carried forward by her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He said the PPP chairman was working towards more women police officers in Sindh at every district level.

ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain praised efforts of Shirkat Gah to help marginalised women and said any democratic system would have failed without the participation of women. Hussain condemned the spread of terrorism in Pakistan and said he had lost his 17-year-old son to a heinous act of terror. Regardless of continuing threats to his life, the ANP leader said his party would continue to take a stand against terrorism in honour of the 800,000 Pakistanis who had been martyred in the war against terror. PML-N MNA and Secretary of the National Assembly Women Caucus, Shaista Pervaiz Malik, said the caucus is working on pro-women legislation and bills addressing domestic violence and child marriage are in the pipeline. The PML-N MNA said a culture of aggression and intolerance was being promoted by so-called ‘inqilabi’ leaders and this kind of negativity is harmful for Pakistan.

PPP Senator Rubina Khalid regretted the absence of women from the All Parties Conference which decided to pursue negotiations with Taliban and said women should be involved in all decision-making bodies. The Senator said Afghan women have numerous lessons for Pakistani women in resilience and resistance against hardline elements. She said the government should reintroduce the Domestic Violence Bill as it had been previously been defeated in the Senate. Khalid said PPP condemns all forms of religious extremism and sectarianism. ANP MNA Bushra Gohar said Pakistan cannot go forward unless it respects women and the success of democracy is dependant on gender equality. Gohar said elected representatives in the National Assembly frequently compromise on pro-women bills and concede to religious elements. The veteran female politician said the 18th amendment had made free education compulsory and Pakistanis should put pressure on the government to deliver. She said Pakistan had transformed into a security state instead of being a representative democracy.

Introducing Pakistan’s Women Cricket Team, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Women Wing President Bushra Aitzaz said the team had managed to defeat Bangladesh in the Asian Games 2014 in South Korea despite poor funding from the government. Aitzaz said the women had worked against all odds to pursue their passion of cricket in spite of criticism by male cricketers and lack of support shown by their universities. Women Cricket Captain, Sana Mir introduced her gold medallist teammates to the audience and said the cricket team would continue to make Pakistan proud on the global stage. She said six women in the cricket team are featured in the top 20 International Cricket Council (ICC) player rankings.

The group of 150 women leaders presented their charter of demands at the conclusion of the ceremony which included legislation against child marriage and domestic violence, campaigns to increase awareness of laws within Pakistani women, women police officers in small towns and villages, effective implementation and inclusion of women in aman committees, repeal of Qisas and Diyat law with honour killings to be treated as crimes committed against the State, district level vocational training of women and children, effective population control schemes, removal of hate speech from public school syllabus, local government elections, and recognition of women farmers with entitlements to benefits. A rally from Lahore Press Club to Punjab Assembly was also taken out by the women in support of their charter of demands.

Issue: 
Peace and Security
Political and Public Participation
Land and Economic Rights
Culturally Justified Violence Against Women