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6.5M Punjabi women not registered as voters

Lahore:


Political parties, civil society organisations and the media have agreed to form a provincial
committee for coordinated efforts to enhance the registration of women voters in Punjab ahead
of the 2018 general election.

The consensus was developed at a consultation organised by the Free and Fair Election Network
(FAFEN) in collaboration with its member organisation PATTAN. The committee will take up the
issue of registration of women for their Computerized National Identity Cards (CNIC) with the
National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and their subsequent registration as
voters with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“As many as 6.5 million women are not registered as voters in Punjab. These women may also
be unregistered with NADRA, which is a legal prerequisite for voter registration,” FAFEN’s
Manager Communications and Advocacy Syed Abdul Ahad said.

The consultation was attended by representatives of all major political parties, civil society
organizations, and the media. NADRA, however, did not send any representatives to the
meeting.

The consultation also resolved that the government must ease the procedural formalities for
the registration of CNIC and authorise local government chairmen and councillors for the
attestation of citizens’ registration application forms.

It also urged NADRA to expand its existing infrastructure to include more facilitation centres
as well as mobile registration vans.

TDEA-FAFEN CEO Shahid Fiaz termed the gap between male and female voters as one of the
major democratic issues. He called upon stakeholders to coordinate their efforts and form a
committee to take up registration issues with the concerned authorities.

Ruling party MNA Shaista Pervez Malik told the consultation that getting CNICs for citizens is
a cumbersome process and requires improvements. She said bureaucratic hurdles and lethargy
on part of NADRA and other state institutions were the major causes for low women voter
registration that need to be urgently addressed. She was of the view that the ECP should
pressurise NADRA to register as many citizens as possible before the upcoming general elections.

PTI MPA Saadia Sohail complained of the attitude of NADRA staff towards people who have to
wait in long queues for hours in hostile conditions. She said that the CNIC is also a prerequisite
for opening a bank account and registration of marriage, asking the government to improve
the administration of NADRA for improving citizen registration.

Hussain Naqi, who represented the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said that
the existing NADRA infrastructure is inadequate to register 6.5 million women in Punjab. He
proposed that the ECP should issue Voter Cards to citizens as is done in India.

ECP Deputy Director Rai Sultan Bhatti acknowledged the gender gap in Mandi Bahauddin,
Sheikhupura, and Narowal, while informing the consultation that Sahiwal has the lowest gender
gap. He said that the ECP has made a Gender Affairs Wing to lessen this deficit. He also
emphasised the need for coordinated efforts of civil society, political parties, NADRA and
media to minimise this gap.

“Election stakeholders only become active as elections approach, although registration is open
throughout the year,” he said.

Source:Pakistan Today, DECEMBER 3, 2016

Punjab acts to protect women

Sajid Zia

LAHORE - Talking a big leap to safeguard rights of the women, the Punjab Assembly yesterday
unanimously passed the law titled “Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act-2016”
that will be enforced in different areas and different times across the province.

Shortly called Women Protect Act aims to meet needs of the existing legal system which had
failed to effectively address the menace and violence against women. The bill also envisages
rehabilitation and justice to women if they fall they fall victim of domestic, emotional,
psychological violence, verbal abuse, stalking and cyber crime.

Under the newly made law District Women Protection Officers (WPO) would be appointed to
take care of everything of the victim women in addition to getting her relief from the court
of law.

The victim women will also get help from Women Protection Committee, protection centre
and shelter homes. The enactment made on the subject has come through after three years’
study carried out jointly by both sides in the House.

The Opposition wanted two amendments to the bill but it withdrew them in the last moment
to let the Law Minister incorporate his nine.

The Act says an aggrieved woman will have facility of toll free number to lodge her complaint.
As in case of violence she will immediately be provided shelter and treatment while the WPO
will institute case on her behalf before the Court to obtain for her protection, residence or
monetary order in her favour against the defendant.

The court will decide the case within seven days. A women aggrieved of domestic violence
will not be evicted but in accordance with law and if evicted the court will restore her to that
residence if she has right, title or beneficial interest in the house or she may choose an
alternative residence to be arranged by the defendant as per her financial resources.

In order to ensure protection of the aggrieved woman, the court may order the defendant not
have communication with her, keep a distance from the victim woman or the court can order
to wear him ankle or wrist bracelet GPS to track his movement round the clock.

The court can also take away the licenced weapon of the defendant for the safety of the
woman and it can also pass any other order which it deems fit for her protection. The court
may also seek surety bonds from the defendant to the effect of preventing him committing
violence on woman besides directing the defendant at the stage of trial to pay her interim
monetary relief.

The District Women Protection Committee at the head of the DCO will function to supervise
working of the protection centres and shelter homes and take steps to improve the relief and
rehabilitation services in addition to performing other duties.

After passage of the bill, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said the Act is open to improve-
ment which may be brought in any time to protect women’s rights in letter and spirit.

The House presided over by the Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan also carried another bill to amend
the Punjab Forest Act to the effect of setting up Punjab Forest Company under the private
public partnership. The Opposition strongly opposed the amendment which in official record,
aimed at tackling blank forest areas for raising forest plantation through private investment.

Mian Aslam Iqbal, Arif Abbasi, Khadija Umar and Taimur wanted further study on the bill as
the forest in private hands would actually be a favour by Sharifs to their blue-eyed. Iqbal
said privatisation of such important department runs counter to the PML-N claims made
immediately after coming into power to revamp the departments and improve their capacity.

And privatization, he said, reflects failure of the government in living up to its commitment.
He said under public-private partnership the national kitty will suffer the burden of huge
expenses when the favourites would be appointed at hefty salaries.

He said the private company may be foreign which means giving rights of the public to the
foreigners. He lamented the government preference was foreign friends and not Pakistanis
for engaging them in development projects.

The jobless youth are accruing in number while the government was looking at the foreign
companies, he said citing the projects which were given to Turk companies on contract.

The treasury members put out the Opposition members by raising slogans against the PTI
performance in KPK. Later, the law minister said the Bill was thoroughly examined by the
Standing Committee and the Opposition did not touch even a single point as to why the
same should again be put to study but said what had little relevance to the subject. On
voting the House carried the bill. The House will resume the business at 11am today.

SOURCE:THE NATION, February 25, 2016

Women in politics

Tahir Mehdi

The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group.

RECENTLY, it was reported that women were barred from voting in the Lower Dir by-election
held earlier this month. It was not the first time, however, that this has happened, nor is it
limited to Dir alone. More importantly, the oft reported phenomenon of women’s deliberate
exclusion from participating in elections is only the tip of the iceberg. The issue that under-
pins it — women in politics — seldom finds place in our political discourse.

Democracies across the world have struggled to ensure equal participation of women.
Although the success rate has understandably not been uniform, Pakistan seems to be going
in reverse gear.

Consider, for example, the fact that whereas there were 77.8 women voters compared with
100 men in the first general elections of 1970 in the then Western provinces (present-day
Pakistan), their ratio of participation in elections held almost half a century later, in 2013,
actually slipped a notch to 77.4!

In Pakistan’s political arena, women are acceptable only as proxies or an extension
of male politicians.


If these two, almost equal figures, are viewed in the specific socio-political context of the years
in question (such as level of urbanisation, literacy, etc), they don’t represent a standstill. They
in fact stand witness to our regression.

The debate on women’s participation in politics in Pakistan has largely remained confined to
reserving seats for them. The 1973 Constitution reserved 10 seats in the National Assembly for
women with the general seat members serving as their electoral college. The reservation was
made for three general elections or ten years, whichever came later. The reason for this time
bar was that it was hoped that within that span of time, women would arrive at par with men
in politics, thus negating the need for special provisions.

The optimism, however, proved to be misplaced. Although Gen Zia doubled the number of
women’s seats, he did not extend the time bar. The seats thus expired after the 1988 elections
and the next three parliaments were without women’s seats.

Gen Musharraf proved more generous than his predecessor and increased the number of women’s
seats in the National Assembly to an impressive 60, and likewise in the provincial assemblies.
He did not put an expiry date on these either. Three elections have been held under this system
so far and together they constitute a substantial body of experience, enough to evaluate whether
it has brought us any closer to the objective of gender equality in the political sphere.

The answer is not difficult to find. It is written all over our politics. The reserved seats have only
helped political patriarchs increase their numerical strength in the houses. They see them as a
bonus, the awarding of which is monopolised by the party heads under the party-list system.
Members may grumble over this monopoly but they do not disagree that only women belonging
to the political elite should come on the reserved seats.

Earlier this year, Balochistan Assembly speaker Jan Mohammed Jamali (PML-N) refused to with-
draw his daughter’s name in favour of his party’s chosen candidate in the Senate election.

The case of Sindh MPA, Parveen Junejo, is even more telling. She was elected from a general
seat in Dadu as a proxy for her husband who was barred from contesting for legal reasons, but
after the couple became estranged, Ms Junejo claimed she was forced to resign her seat. Her
party and the Sindh Assembly, in the manner of a tribal jirga, promptly completed the procedure
required to unseat her.

Equality of women in politics is not on any party’s agenda. They are content with flaunting their
few women leaders as evidence of their progressive politics. In practical electoral terms, it is
much easier for them to take women’s votes as multipliers of male consent. They are then left
with the task of managing only the local-level male powerbrokers.

On the other hand, the parliamentary status of women on reserved seats remains completely
dependent on their male colleagues even if they outperform the men on the floor of the house.
Women are acceptable only as proxies or an extension of male politicians.

The present electoral system and the politics it is generating have become a vehicle for reinforcing
the gender status quo, instead of being a tool to challenge and change it. There is a reason why
even the parties that are against women in the political sphere, including Jamaat-i-Islami which
spearheaded their exclusion from the Lower Dir by-election, happily nominate women candidates
on reserved seats.

In hindsight, it seems the present system was designed only to play with the optics of women’s
participation. It has effected a complete disconnect between the image and the reality on the
ground. While we have a considerable number of women in parliament, womenfolk can still be
barred from getting registered as voters and from casting their ballots.

If the increased presence of women was intended to have a trickle-down effect, let us admit that
it simply hasn’t happened and there are no signs it can ever do so.

This is not to say that ensuring and increasing women’s participation in politics is impossible. One
way can be for women to have a double vote, with one vote for the general seat candidate and
another for the women’s seat. A single voter casting multiple ballots for different categories of
candidates, including women, minorities, etc was tried out in local government elections of
2000 and 2005.

Another method could be to make it mandatory for a winner to have secured men and women’s
votes in a fixed proportion. Yet another option can be to assign women’s votes an additional
fractional weightage while consolidating results.

The point here, however, is not to propose a particular method but to stress that unless the
electoral system puts an additional value on the votes of common womenfolk and incentivises
their participation, women’s equality or even their increased participation will remain a distant
dream.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2015

Female legislators in Punjab Assembly outperform
men: FAFEN

Female legislators performed better than their male counterparts during proceedings of the Punjab
provincial assembly between June 2013 and February 2017, said the Free and Fair Election
Network (FAFEN) on Tuesday.

The female legislators outperformed male MPAs despite the fact that they are in a minority in the
assembly, the international non-profit organisation revealed in a press event.

Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan attended the event as guest of honour and
presented shields to female lawmakers on behalf of FAFEN's Trust for Democratic Education and
Accountability (TDEA).

TDEA-FAFEN representative Shehzad Anwer presented the findings of the report and shared the
following point with the attendees:

• Women make up 20 per cent of assembly members, while their presence in the provincial cabinet
is only 11pc. However, despite a lower numerical strength, they provide "tough competition" to
their male counterparts on nearly all indicators of parliamentary performance.

• Not only were female lawmakers in Punjab observed to be more regular in assembly attendance
in the period observed, they were also more generous in contributing to the agenda and debates
of the assembly.

• An analysis of attendance records showed that 69pc of women tended to attend a sitting as
compared to 48pc of men.

• Each female lawmaker attended 111 sittings on average during the reporting period, whereas
each male lawmaker attended only 86 sittings.

• The female participation rate was also slightly higher than men. 81pc women took part in the
proceedings by contributing to agenda or debates, as compared to 80pc men.

• Nearly one-third of public importance businesses were originated by women.

• The agenda initiated by women related to sectors such as governance, education, health and
social welfare.

• Female lawmakers also highlighted matters related to women's health, violence against women,
female education and employment.

• The assembly took legislative action on a number of women-specific issues.

• It legislated for increasing representation of women in policy-making bodies as well as for
protection of women against violence.

• Laws were put in place for an institutional mechanism for regulation of employment conditions
for women, restriction of child marriages and mandatory provision of maintenance by husbands
for their wives and children.

• The resolutions of the assembly recommended the government to improve women’s health and
facilitate women citizens in government offices.

The speaker of the Punjab Assembly congratulated female lawmakers on their better performance
in the provincial assembly, and said that the Punjab Assembly is committed to resolving the issues
raised by women.

Source:DAWN.COM,March 07, 2017


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