Authorities in Balochistan may eventually earn the distinction of becoming the first province to have a functional local government system but not a single political or religious outfit thought it fit to nominate any woman candidate for top positions at the city, town or union council levels.
“All were men. There was not a single woman candidate for 1,450 slots of chair and deputy chair of four municipal corporations, 52 municipal committees, 32 district councils, and 635 union councils throughout Balochistan,” said Election Commissioner Balochistan, Sayed Sultan Bayazeed.
“The women were elected merely on the reserved seats no woman contested on general seats of LB polls,” he added.
The coalition partners in Balochistan government—ruling National Party (NP) and its partner the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and PML-N claim to be more moderate parties and believe in granting rights to women — the most oppressed people in Balochistan.
However, these parties did not nominate or encourage women to contest for a leading position in the local government system. There were 2,232 reserved seats for women during the LB polls out of which 2,180 had been elected while 152 were still lying vacant. There was no woman candidate for the 7,168 general seats for councillors in December 2013 LB polls.
The provincial chief of PkMAP, Usman Kakar, blamed low literacy rate and lack of awareness for exclusion of women. “It is simply a male-dominated society and no one knows women leaders, which is why, party supports such candidates which are well known,” Kakar told The Express Tribune. “The political parties in Balochistan are also socially regressive in their views about gender,” he said.
According to the PkMAP provincial chief, the culture of Balochistan is not like Sindh and Punjab where women contest elections on general seats and occupy leading positions. Women are mostly elected on reserved seats whether it is national assembly, provincial assembly or the local bodies in Balochistan. However, he said that PkMAP strongly believes in equal participation by women. Senior vice president of NP Mir Tahir Bizenjo has said there is lack of participation from women in Balochistan politics. “I do not think there is any kind of obstacle for female participation in the elections nowadays as there was four to five decades ago,” he said. However, some women leaders in the coalition government did complain that they are sidelined when it comes to policy making and decision making.
According to Advisor to Balochistan CM on Education Sardar Raza Mohammed Badech the female literacy rate is around 19 per cent and male literacy is about 39 per cent which can give a picture of the exclusion of the women from politics.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2015.