ISLAMABAD: Women legislators from Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan called for women-centered electoral and political reforms to realize the constitutional guarantees of equality of citizens and non-discrimination on the basis of sex.
They demanded effective measures to regulate electoral and political finance in order to make elections affordable for most citizens, especially women. The legislators belonging to all parliamentary parties represented in both Provincial Assemblies regretted that the political parties award tickets to women for unwinnable constituencies in order to comply with Section 206 of the Elections Act 2017, which requires parties to ensure five percent representation of women in the selection of candidates for elective offices.
The legislators identified the last-minute announcement of party candidates as a major hurdle that hampered their efforts to run effective campaigns in the assigned constituencies. Moreover, they demanded measures to bound political parties to ensure fair women representation on decision-making positions within the political parties as well as legislatures.
These recommendations were made during a workshop on Legislative Participation and Representation organized by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability and Free and Fair Election Network (TDEA-FAFEN) under its Women Leadership Development Program. The program seeks to support reserved-seat women legislators to contest upcoming elections on general seats.
Leading parliamentarians, secretariat officials from Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan, and civil society representatives addressed the workshop. As many as 15 MPAs – 10 from Sindh and five from Balochistan – including Sadia Javed, Tanzila Umi Habiba, Adeeba Hassan, Nusrat Sehar Abbassi, Sarwat Fatima, Sidra Imran, Shamim Mumtaz, Shahana Ashar, Mangla Sharma, Naseem Rajper, Zeenat Shahwani, Shakeela Naveed Qazi, Shaheena Bibi, Mahjabeen Sheeran and Zubaida attended the workshop.
Speaking during the workshop, Balochistan Minister for Food Engr. Zamrak Khan assured his full support to the women legislators from the province in their legislative initiatives. Senator Taj Haider emphasized upon the need for women representation on decision-making positions in political parties.
Members of National Assembly Nafisa Shah and Mehnaz Akbar Aziz also addressed the workshop and advised strong collaboration among women to steer their legislative initiatives through the assemblies. Responding to legislators’ question on rising election cost, Nafisa Shah blamed it upon the absence of a legal framework to regulate political finance in the country. She advised women to stay abreast with current issues and come prepared for assembly sessions.
Sindh Minister for Women Development Syeda Shehla Raza urged the women legislators to become torch-bearers for other women who wish to join politics. Appreciating the legislators’ participation in Assembly proceedings, she suggested to promote a strong sisterhood within their parties and inside the Assembly on issues concerning women.
FAFEN Chairperson Mosarrat Qadeem said women legislators could greatly benefit from the civil society’s expertise in diverse fields. She assured them of TDEA-FAFEN’s full support in performing their legislative and representative duties in order to advance their political careers.
Secretary Provincial Assembly of Balochistan Tahir Shah Kakar and Senior Special Secretary Provincial Assembly of Sindh briefed the legislators on the rules of procedure of their respective assemblies during the workshop.