A catfight in the assembly

Sehar Tariq June 21, 2010

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.


Riaz Haq | 12 years ago | Reply 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. http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/05/1999-2009-pakistans-decade-of-urban.html
cmsarwar | 12 years ago | Reply @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.
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