LAHORE - Punjab Assembly Saturday passed the Punjab Fair Representation of Women Bill 2014 amid minor rumpus and the chair’s directions to expunge remarks exchanged between the political divide of the house.
Addressing the house after the passage of the Bill, Leader of the House and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that 25,000 women have got right of representation in policy making under this law and now they should raise their voice for other women.
Shahbaz said representation of women has been made compulsory in all government institutions, autonomous boards, development and research centres. He also announced regularisation of lady health workers, besides amendments in various laws for upholding women rights.
As per the new law, at least 33 percent representation of women has been made compulsory on the boards of all government corporations, institutions and companies. All public university boards including syndicates and board of directors are also subject to a mandatory 33 per cent quota for women.
The purpose behind this clause and other measures, including a 15 percent increase in female quota of government jobs, is to increase the number of women in key decision-making capacities, which the chief minister hoped will witness sharp increase after the passage of this historic law.
The special sitting of the Punjab Assembly held for the passage of the women representation bill started with a delay of more than an hour with Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Khan in the chair. A large number of women belonging to different walks of life, especially the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), also witnessed the proceedings.
The special sitting witnessed exchange of indecent remarks between the treasury and the opposition on several occasions, while the chair directed the officials concerned to expunge the same from the proceedings record. However, Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed during the address of the Leader of the House announced that opposition had also backed the Bill despite rejection of all the amendments proposed by them.
The chief minister in his address said that women were playing an important role shoulder-to-shoulder with men in the developed world and his government was committed to empower the women of the Punjab. Giving example of progress made by Turkey and China, the chief minister said that both the countries have made tremendous progress by bringing women into national mainstream due to which they have achieved prosperity.
Shahbaz said his government has decided to create opportunities for women in jobs and trade at large as well small scale. He said that now only women contractors would be able to operate canteens in women specific educational institutions.
He said scholarships have been given to 50,000 students from Punjab Educational Endowment Fund and out of these 25,000 were females. Similarly, among those who benefited from laptop scheme during the last two years, 60 percent were females. Shahbaz said that small loans of four billion rupees have been given to 50 percent women and now they were earning their living with respect. He said Rs50 billion have been allocated for women under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s loan scheme.
Earlier, Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah tabled the Fair Representation Bill and pleaded for its immediate take up, which was opposed by the opposition which sought inclusion of its amendments in the bill. Rana alleged said that PTI-led opposition was making efforts to block the bill, which the treasury was trying to get approved on the day of International Women’s Day. The PTI and Taliban were the only forces which oppose the progress of the women, he further alleged.
The instance ignited a round of indecent remarks between both sides of the political divide, while the chair intervening in the affair directed the MPs not to utter bad words against each other, and instructed expunging the remarks from the record. He allowed the opposition to present their amendments in the bill to overcome the rumpus.
Presenting their point of view, Mehmoodur Rasheed, Sabtain Khan, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Faiza Malik, Amir Cheema and Sadia Suhail said that the treasury was taking up this crucial bill in a haphazard manner. They said the bill after its passage would only benefit a specific group of women and the women of the lower class would not get any benefit from it.
Opposition members Faiza Malik and Raheela Anwar said that the government should have also pondered upon the discrimination with the women who are part of this honourable house. They said that women MPs neither have any representation in the district coordination committees nor they receive development funds.