ISLAMABAD: President Asif Zardari has said that genuine democratic process is not possible anywhere in the world without the active participation of women.
He said Pakistani women constitute 50 per cent of the population and their role is very important for strengthening democracy in the country. The president was addressing a luncheon meeting with women parliamentarians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The president, while dedicating the afternoon to the late Benazir Bhutto, said “there is a woman behind every successful man but I am here a man behind a successful woman”.
He said Pakistan has made several pledges at regional and international forums for the uplift and emancipation of women. During the government of the late Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan signed the landmark Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995. The president urged the caucus of women parliamentarians to devise a mechanism to implement the pledges made in the covenant for the uplift of women and ending all forms of discrimination against them.
The president also urged women parliamentarians to use this first-ever convention to forge stronger links not only between themselves but also with all those making struggle for gender equality and emancipation of women. The president said that he felt proud that the Pakistan People’s Party “has to its credit many firsts on the road to women emancipation”. He added: “Our chairperson Benazir Bhutto was the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan and she was also the first woman Prime Minister anywhere in the Muslim world.
At thirty-five she was the youngest premier. For the first time in our parliamentary history a woman caucus has been formed”. He said National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza is the first woman speaker in the history of Pakistan. Zardari said that democracy is the only system that can help create conditions where women are empowered and emancipated. While referring to the current wave of militancy and extremism in the region, he said the world would be a better place if more women were in positions of power and women of the region were brought closer together.
The president said that the convention of women parliamentarians will ensure the region a better and bright future. This convention should not be considered a one-off event. This should be used as a platform for a comprehensive action plan for women empowerment, he added.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.