PESHAWAR: Women’s rights activists on Saturday submitted a petition in the Peshawar High Court (PHC), seeking directives for the government to reserve seats in the National Assembly and the Senate for women from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) on the basis of their population.
The petition – submitted by activists Mehreen Afridi and Nadia Khan through their counsel Fazal Shah Mohmand – asked why FATA did not have women-reserved seats in the National Assembly.
The petitioners requested the court to declare it illegal, unconstitutional and against fundamental human rights.
“People of Fata have been subjected to colonial-time laws since the partition,” said Afridi, calling it discrimination with Fata women “as women from other parts of the country have been provided such seats under the Constitution”.
The respondents in the case are the president, the prime minster, the speaker and the secretary of the National Assembly, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor, the Election Commission of Pakistan and the chairperson Commission on the Status of Women.
As an interim relief, the petitioners have asked the court to direct the respondents to provide representation to the women from Fata in the National Assembly in the upcoming general elections. They expressed the hope that representation of Fata women in the National Assembly would ensure their participation in politics and decision-making.
“The fact is that the Constitution and international conventions signed by the country ensure women’s participation, but the people of Fata are kept ignored about their rights,” stated the petitioners.
According to Mohmand, the counsel for the petitioners, Articles 51 and 59 of the Constitution are very much clear on the point that deals with the number of seats reserved for women in the National Assembly and the Senate from all provinces, but there are no seats in the two houses from Fata “which is an injustice with Fata”.
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The counsel said depriving Fata women of their representation is also against certain articles of the Constitution that provide for elimination of injustice and exploitation, and ensure equal participation and protection against discrimination on the bases of sex, colour and cast.
“The government is under obligation to provide equal opportunities and participation to its population,” said Mohmand, adding that equality is the golden principle of Islam and absence of women’s representation is against the local laws and international conventions signed by Pakistan.
“The people of Fata are passing through a very difficult situation,” said Afridi, adding, “Bringing the women from Fata into the mainstream would surely lead towards a better tomorrow.”
Afridi said Fata women would stand deprived if they were not provided reserved seats in Parliament “which is a violation of the universal principle of natural justice”. She added that women in Fata should be provided more opportunities to enable them to come on a par with women from other parts of the country.
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