islamabad - Parliamentarians and civil society have stressed the need for reforms on the basis of international conventions ratified by Pakistan ahead of 2018 general elections to ensure political participation of women, minorities and youth.
They were speaking on the second day of “National Conference on Political Participation of Women, Minorities and Youth” organised by the Democracy Reporting International in collaboration with Women Parliamentary Caucuses of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab Youth Parliamentary Caucus.
Deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly Syeda Shehla Raza said that participation does not merely mean to increase the number of seats in assemblies, but to empower women to vote for her own choice instead of following the dictations of male family members.
Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, PML-F’s MPA from Sindh, said that male MPAs with typical mindset in assemblies are also reluctant to take up the issues of women and advocate for the legislative and policy level reforms. She said that there is need to recognize the important role of women in politics. “No MNA or MPA can win without the support of women workers who go from door to door seeking votes,” she added.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Dr Nosheen Saeed said that the example of patriarchal mindset was reflected from the opposition of the male MPAs during the approval process of Women Protection Bill from Punjab Assembly.
Aabia Akram, an activist for the rights of the persons with disabilities, called upon the legislators to formulate rules and regulations that would facilitate the persons to become part of the political process too.
Senator Rubina Khalid of the PPP from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa called upon the authorities to bring in women when it comes to decision making in FATA as women and children of FATA are the most vulnerable class in that region.
Minorities’ rights activists Romana Bashir and Haroon Sarab Dayal stressed upon the need for equal treatment of minorities as they are citizens of the country and need not be classified as minority. Speakers of the conference, including Sabeeha Shaheen and MPA Sardar Vakas Mokal demanded lifting of the ban on student unions in order to further improve the political participation of the youth; they also demanded have more seats for the youth in local government system. The speakers also highlighted need for civic and voters education for the young people many of whom are disillusioned towards political system.
They demanded that clear-cut youth policies and frameworks are needed for the youth empowerment and their participation into political process. Youth is missing in the decision making process of the political parties of Pakistan.
Addressing the concluding session Ms Joanna Reid, Head of Pakistan Office, UK Department for International Development said that the UK supports strengthening of the democratic institutions in Pakistan and giving women, minorities and youth a voice.
Others who spoke included Dr Shama Ishaq (NP), MPA Sardar Vickas Mokal (PMLQ), MPA Faiza Malik, Senator Sitara Ayaz, MPA Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani, MNA Lal Malhi, MPA Mary Gill and others.