All political parties in Pakistan claim to champion women’s causes, but this is not reflected in the composition of their decision-making bodies.
While a quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for women, the central committees of the ‘liberal’ parties have less than 10 per cent representation for women.
Of the 51 members on the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) central executive committee, only two are women: National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza and Faryal Talpur, sister of President Asif Ali Zardari. Fauzia Habib is the only woman among 18 members who are invited to participate in the committee’s meetings, according to information obtained from the PPP’s official website. “We have a separate women’s wing and women affiliated with the party give their input in that forum,” said PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), another party seen to be liberal and progressive, is also doing poorly on this front. Of the over 30 members of its coordination committee, only two – Nasreen Jalil and Mumtaz Anwar – are women.
Wasay Jalil, a senior party leader, admitted that there should be more women in decision-making bodies but insisted that the number did not reflect the thinking in the MQM about women’s role in politics.
“I will say a lot more can be done on this front … political parties in Pakistan surely need to give women more say, more representation in their mainstream forums,” he said from Karachi over the phone.
The Awami National Party (ANP), which claims to be representative of Pakhtuns opposed to hardline Taliban ideas, also has just two women on its central working committee, MNAs Bushra Gohar and Jalima Gilani.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, traditionally thought of as a centre-right party with conservative views on women, has more women on its central working committee than the PPP, MQM and ANP combined. “The number of women in our CWC has been increased from four to nine recently … but it is still not enough,” said Nuzrat Amir, a member of the committee, which has a total membership of 50. “There should be more women so that their problems can be highlighted.”
She said that party chief Nawaz Sharif had pushed for women to have a greater say in the PML-N’s affairs.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf, meanwhile, does not even have a central working committee at the moment. Party spokesman Zahid Kazmi said that it would be reconstituted soon and would likely have more women than other parties. “We will try to have more women on the CWC when we reorganise it in a week,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2011.
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