The race for the office of National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) chairperson has gathered pace, with some, believed to be close to political bigwigs, vying for the slot through short-cuts.
The long delay in the appointment of a new chairperson and members of the commission has engendered speculation and it is expected that top politicians may get involved in making the final decision.
The NCSW became an autonomous body on March 8 this year, with a new procedure to appoint its chairperson. However, the final decision has been pending since March 25.
Many fear that the position may become victim to nepotism and the process may be undermined or bypassed in favour of certain people.
The concerns are based on the fact that in the previous commission, apart from four people who had the relevant experience, all members were appointed on the basis of political contacts.
Under new laws, the selection process will begin with an advertisement. Out of the short-listed candidates, the prime minister, in consultation with the leader of the opposition, will select three names and a parliamentary committee, constituted by the National Assembly speaker, will then finalise a name.
An advertisement was published on April 3, after which 10 names were short-listed. Surprisingly, the list included the name of an interior designer with barely any experience of working on women issues.
On the other hand, the names of three potential candidates – Dr Fouzia Saeed, Anis Haroon and Neelofer Bakhtiar – have been making the rounds in Islamabad. If the due process is not tampered with, one of the three is speculated to get the seat.
While talking to The Express Tribune, women rights campaigners expressed their concern over the government bringing people through short-cuts or backdoor, bypassing the process by adding others to the race. Tahira Abdullah, a rights activist, said it was necessary for the government to strictly follow the procedure in the selection process.
Former chairperson of the commission Anis Haroon said the selection process should be based on merit and that the institute should not be politicised. She agreed that during her tenure the commission faced immense management problems, including a shortage of electricity, internet, gas and water in the office.
Aqsa Khan from WORD said civil society is concerned at the delay in the appointment of a chairperson who, she said, should have a 15-year experience and an outstanding contribution to the agenda.
Another rights crusader, Farzana Bari said the previous commission failed to work effectively, and urged the government to consult senior human right activists in order to make the selection process transparent.
When contacted, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said the ministry has no role in the selection process, except for forwarding the list of qualified candidates to the premier which, he added, has already been done.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2012.
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