A catfight in the assembly

Published: June 22, 2010
The writer is a master's student at Princeton University (sehar.tariq@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is a master's student at Princeton University (sehar.tariq@tribune.com.pk)

Only 12 countries in the world have acted upon the ideological commitment to ensure women’s participation in the formal political arena, as embodied by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action. Pakistan is one of them. Under the Local Government Ordinance of 2001, 33 per cent of seats at all tiers of local government and 17 per cent in the national and provincial legislatures were reserved for women. Given the long history of discrimination against women and their exclusion from politics, this was a revolutionary step.

As a result, since elections in 2002 a record number of women have contested the polls and joined the ranks of legislators. However, concerns remained that women are powerless proxies for male relatives but women members of the PPP Punjab Assembly have put to rest any such concerns with great displays of aggression and power.

For far too long we have associated macho deep-throated growling, shouting and name calling in menacing voices with Sultan Rahi but the women MPs of Punjab are not to be left behind.

On June 14, before the budget for the province was presented, PPP MPA Sajida Mir from Lahore said that there was rampant rigging in rural areas where women were heavily influenced by feudals. She praised Iffat Liaquat of the PML-N who had won an election from Chakwal despite not having the backing of the feudal elite. Now this would sound like a fairly normal conversation to you unless you happen to be a feudal from Chakwal.

Luckily MPA Fouzia Behram, belonging to the same party as Ms Mir, was on hand to act the part (or embody the true likeness) of an enraged feudal from Chakwal. Ms Mir bellowed that MPAs from Lahore are ignorant. And in order to truly put the erring non-feudal in her place, she decided to insult her a little more by labelling her with the most derogatory word she could find in her feudal dictionary —“kammi” which means from a low caste. Ms Mir remained calm and reminded the enraged feudal that this insulted not just her but the philosophy of the party that both MPAs represent, not to mention the majority of its supporters since most of them happen to be “kammis”. This further enraged Ms Behram who then charged towards Ms Mir and tried to slap her.

Ladies, in this day and age of political crisis and misery for the entire country, couldn’t you maybe reserve your passions for topics of greater importance and substance like the budget, the state of education, healthcare or inflation? And could you please try and take the job of legislating on behalf of your constituents a little more seriously than the men who have failed us for so many years?

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2010.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Murad
    Jun 22, 2010 - 1:49AM

    HAHAHAHA! This is really funny! Really well written! Maybe the author should have suggested an appropriate soundtrack of this battle.Recommend

  • Jun 22, 2010 - 1:49AM

    The problem is not just the feudals but anyone with an iota of power in our country.We have weak institutions so there are no meaningful checks n balances.Be it the rural feudals or the urban feudals who have carved out sections of the city as their personal fiefdoms & no-go areas,those who have power,abuse it with impunity.Unfortunately,most of these women in the parliament are proxies,but atleast we have a few like marvi,kashmala n sherry who are intelligent n articulate and can hold their own in any discussion.Recommend

  • Yasir Kidwai
    Jun 22, 2010 - 3:23AM

    The article is funny and well-written but it is sad to see that the author did not do any research at all: Fauzia Behram, as any person vaguely acquainted with local politics can tell you, is not a feudal. Instead she is a largely self-made woman, the kind that Miss Tariq would theoretically want to encourage. There is no evidence of her ever having benefited from ‘feudal’ patronage. Secondly, while her point is more valid with regard to Mrs Liaquat – the wife of a famous Chakwal politician – even she hardly qualifies as ‘feudal.’ It is simply to easy for foreign-educated commentators to decry the political map as a class struggle against ‘feudals.’ Ms Tariq: the problems of your country are far more spread than the simple caricatures presented in your article.Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    Jun 22, 2010 - 4:45AM

    I understand Sajida has been with PPP all her life and is known to have been in the forefront of all PPP fights against oppression of all dictators.Fauzia,on the other hand,is with the ppp,like most of the feudals,due to convenience and expediancy of gains.As the things stand Fauzia will be the winner.Kammies have no use for the PPP right now.My prayers for Sajida.She has been in trouble ever since Zardari took over the legacy of Bhuttos.A new PPP is emerging and Sajida has to make the needed readjustments.Recommend

  • asifa
    Jun 22, 2010 - 9:24AM

    the funny thing is fauzia behram has forgotten her background, and exactly how she rose to power. her own father was a telephone operator, her ascendenacy in politics is also because of her marriage to a politician (she is his second wife). Recommend

  • Musa K
    Jun 22, 2010 - 11:08AM

    @ Yasir – easy to ignore the author’s point and criticize all foreign educated people for “not understanding” the “real” problems of the country. You must have been raised in some privileged household that shielded YOU from the real problems of Pakistan. Wake up. Look around you and the struggle between the classes. Class disparities are indeed one of the biggest problems facing pakistan and the cause of ll recent violence and unrest.Recommend

  • Nina
    Jun 22, 2010 - 1:01PM

    Pakistani female politicians have yet to attain political maturity, and still have a long way to go before becoming properly qualified as members of parliament/assembly. I myself have been witnessing the manner in which some of our women politicians behave, and I feel embarrassed for them.Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Jun 22, 2010 - 1:08PM

    All Hail DEMOCRACY!

    The Future of Pakistan & its people is SO SO SO Bright in the hands of our beloved Democratic leaders do not look like respectable legislatures.

    We deserve our leaders. We all saw the cat fight, now I am waiting for a dog fight on our TV channels. Recommend

  • Jun 22, 2010 - 4:17PM

    Next time throw some Jello into the Arena and sell tickets to the show. Recommend

  • Yasir Kidwai
    Jun 22, 2010 - 4:35PM

    @ Musa – If you read my comment again, you may find that you have misconstrued my criticism. I am foreign educated and unabashedly privileged – and cognisant of my responsibilities like the author and you – but my point was a deeper one about the conflation of different class battles into a single one in a manner that ignores the intricacies of the real problem at hand: a society so fractured that it requires some serious thought as to the process of reassembling it. My critique of Ms Tariq is solely that, despite her stellar credentials and evident intelligence, she has fallen into the trap – perhaps necessitated by the requirements of the medium – of simplifying a very complex issue, and not doing her research on the facts.Recommend

  • Ali Haider
    Jun 22, 2010 - 10:42PM

    Kick her out of the assembly.Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    Jun 23, 2010 - 8:15AM

    @Yasir.As pointed out by Asifa Fauzia has upgraded herself to feudal class by marrying some politician,his second marriage.This is the one great struggle in Pakistan–upgrading to the elite class.Ayub did it for his family,so did Zia and Musharraf.Look into their origins and how the families moved upwards,not through the labour and honest,hard work by their children.A good scrutiny of their assets when they started their careers,their life-long legal earnings and their ultimate accumulation of easy money would reveal all.So vain was Gauhar Ayub that he arranged his car number plate from Gujranwala(GAK1)after long wait and effort only to have the satisfaction of being Gauhar Ayub Khan One.Similiar exercise could be carried out for politicians.Dear Zardari was running his father;s cinema before merging into the Bhuttos.So on and so forth.But if a KAMMI is not smart and unprincipled he will remain a KAMMI always.Sajida Mir is out of place amongst the elite becuse she could not hook a feudal politician for his second or third or fourth marriage.Recommend

  • Jun 25, 2010 - 8:19AM

    While reports such as this remind us that the retrogressive feudal power remains strong in Pakistan, I do see hope for better democratic governance with the growth of Pakistani middle class and increasing urbanization that accelerated in the last decade.

    Pakistan is now more urbanized with a larger middle class than India as percentage of the population. In 2007, Standard Chartered Bank analysts and State Bank governor Dr. Ishrat Husain estimated there were 30 to 35 million Pakistanis earning an average of $10,000 a year. Of these, about 17 million are in the upper and upper middle class, according to a recent report.

    Pakistan has and continues to urbanize at a faster pace than India. From 1975-1995, Pakistan grew 10% from 25% to 35% urbanized, while India grew 6% from 20% to 26%. From 1995-2025, the UN forecast says Pakistan urbanizing from 35% to 60%, while India’s forecast is 26% to 45%. For this year, a little over 40% of Pakistan’s population lives in the cities.

    The urban population now contributes about three quarters of Pakistan’s gross domestic product and almost all of the government revenue. The industrial sector contributes over 27% of the GDP, higher than the 19% contributed by agriculture, with services accounting for the rest of the GDP.

    The future of Pakistan clearly belongs to its urban middle class. The behavior of the members of this rising urban middle class will largely determine if and when Pakistan grows out of the current crises to face the future with greater confidence.


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