Protection of rights and empowerment of women remained centre stage, even if taken lightly by some, in the National Assembly on Friday.
Friday’s session, which happened to fall on the International day of elimination of violence against women, saw a female MNA pointing out a glaring violation of fundamental rights in the recently held Kohistan by-elections where women were barred from casting votes.
Bushra Gohar from the Awami National Party (ANP) informed the house that “only three out of 18,000 women voters had exercised their right in the by-elections of PK-61 Kohistan.”
The by-elections of the provincial assembly constituency of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had taken place on November 24.
“This agreement (of not allowing the women to cast votes) was confirmed by locals at the DCO’s office,” she said, while demanding the government to probe the matter.
She urged Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was present in the house, to take notice of the issue and ensure implementation of laws.
Furthermore, Kashmala Tariq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid lamented that a bill aimed at the protection of women had lapsed in Senate.
Nadeem Afzal Gondal, in an attempt to ‘lighten’ the mood, responded: “This government has empowered women to that extent that we (men) need legislation for protection of our rights”.
The seemingly failed attempt led Tariq to say: ‘Ridiculing such serious issues is quite unfortunate’. Soon after, Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah assured the house that the government will not take any step against the rights of women.
PML-N not in attendance
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), did not participate in the last session of the NA. Their absence was pointed out by Aftab Ahmed Sherpao when the government moved a bill for imposition and collection of gas infrastructure development cess (The Gas Infrastructure Development Cess Bill, 2011).
The PML-N, who had staged a walkout from the house over dissatisfaction of the government’s explanation of the memogate scandal, did not turn up throughout the session.
This is an important piece of legislation since its passage would pass on some additional burden on the consumer, therefore, it should be deferred till opposition’s presence, Sherpao said. “Your intention might be good but this safety wall is not enough to control the prices,” he added.
Abdul Rasheed Godil of the MQM and Kashmala Tariq added they were members of the standing committee on finance but were not told of the meeting in which the bill was discussed.
However, the government challenged the complaint and moved the bill for passage.
Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar moved the bill as well as amendments on behalf of the opposition. The house passed the amended version of the bill.
While moving the bill further to amend the petroleum products (Petroleum Levy) Ordinance 1961[Petroleum Products (Petroleum Levy) (Amendment) Bill, 2011], Qamar said that the legislation was meant to manage the market so that individuals could not get windfall profits.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2011.