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WHAT IF THE DRIVER OF THE BUS IN KHAIRPUR ACCIDENT WAS A WOMAN

WHAT IF THE DRIVER OF THE BUS IN KHAIRPUR ACCIDENT WAS A WOMAN

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An major accident, took place in Khairpur near Teri bypass on November 11 where a bus collided head on with a truck, 60 people died and many more injured. The media was totally taken up by the news for a few days nothing else but this news was shown, stories of those who died, interviews of their relatives, officials, traffic arrangement, identification of the bodies, etc. I could not even get the name of the driver who basically was driving very fast and banged the bus straight into a truck while overtaking. His name was not even mentioned in the initial FIR despite that he earlier had a speeding ticket, he took too many passengers and the passengers said he went to sleep.

Show hosts said all the roads should be made a double lane roads, others blamed the quality of roads, some did say this new practice of mixing CNG and petrol to get a faster speed for these vehicles is bad, others said the highway officials are responsible.

My question is what if this was a woman driving this bus? The whole media would have talked about nothing but how irresponsible women can be. They have gone to all woman political leaders and women activists to say, “ab bataen??” (‘Now respond to this!!’) The main news would have been – aik aurat ke haathon 60 logon ka qatal (60 murdered at the hands of a woman). The talk shows would have discussed revoking driving licenses of women

Drivers. Religious scholars would have discussed the negative consequences of giving such liberties to women in this Islamic republic of Pakistan and would have suggested banning all women to drive and insisted that they should stay at home.

The family of the woman driver would have been interviewed, her relatives, her extra curricular activities and people’s opinion about her. In general the news stories and the discussion around it would have revolved around the woman and the fact if women of Pakistan have acceded all limits and if new laws should be made to curtail it.

In the actual reporting of the Khairpur accident the mention of the driver is pretty trivial with not even a name that is prominent in the news. Reasons for the accident reported in a media report after investigation reveal speeding as if the bus went faster itself and collided with the truck.

What I am saying is neither humorous not too far out. If you remember when during the elections one woman politician slapped a polling booth worker the media exploded with ‘what are these women doing’. Women politicians and women activists were interviewed with cynical questions, ‘ab bataen??” Implying that now that you have seen how women themselves can violate other’s rights you should never ever mention any talk of rights again ever. As if one woman’s act was a slap in the face of all men and gave an excellent excuse to all those who want this debate on women’s emancipation to end.

Why are women not seen as individuals who can do good and bad deeds? Why do we have to be clustered in the name of our gender when its time to beat us, yet there continues to be a societal blindness when it comes to gender based discriminatory patterns which should be seen in categories of men and women?

Among many of the male privileges in our society, one is that men are never glued to their gender and stereo typed in a way women are. No one will say ‘Oh! a man was driving no wonder the bus had an accident.’

 

 

 

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THANK YOU ! WE ARE TIRED OF THE OOZING MARDANGI IN OUR POLITICS

The narratives about womanlihood that are suddenly floating around on the political landscape are shocking. Sheikh Rashid calling Bilawal Bhutto Bilo Rani was enraging, and that too in crowds that are talking of a new Pakistan and in the presence of so many women. I am in a shock reading the criticism of Bilawal Bhutto after his debut rally in Karachi on the social media. Regardless of the content of his speech the criticism especially of educated people has focused on him not being a macho enough of a man for the taste of the macho guys around. It is the symbolism of manlihood, womanlihood and the mindset of the Pakistani political ethos right now, which is disgusting.

For many I would have to explain why I am upset at the putting down of a man calling her a woman as that might not be obvious to those who use such swear words in routine. Calling someone a woman or feminine as a put down is a slap in the face of half the population of this country. I would assume it is also a slap in the face of those aware men who do understand that this reflects the sick patriarchal and macho mindset that still prevails and thinks that woman is a lower being, a joke, a put down and a swear word. It is the same crowd that does not hesitate using swear words about mothers and sisters in their routine language and unfortunately modern education has not done anything for them in this regards.

My second point is that we are sick and tired of the macho manliness, thank you very much! In a country where muscular body, big mustache and a turban in case of rural and a big muscular body, empty brain and macho talk of women in case of urban areas is the cool standard of masculinity, we are tired of men killing their daughters and wives. We are tired of men raping 2 -6 years old girls. We are tired of men blowing bombs; we are tired of men beating women, even their life partners. Rather than respecting the mother of their children, raping and brutally murdering them. I am not talking of ‘criminals’ I am talking of men who are very proud of being a MAN and are very proud to be killing their family women for so called “honour”. I am sorry but there is something very wrong with the way our society has painted the “masculinity”.

I am reminded of Shaan, the actor, when he started his acting career. Before him Punjabi hero never sang or danced, he always was with a gun or a dang. When Shaan joined he was modern looking , clean shaved, singing and dancing. We were very happy with this transformation of the Punjabi films but someone must have started criticizing him or his directors, because soon he was back in Sultan Rahi macho mode. The same style of speaking with big mustache, guns and dangs to stay afloat. He had to work hard to make his space.

It is time we stop seeing the manlihood in aggressive, violent and macho sense and start appreciating a civilized attitude, non aggression, good manners and intelligence as good attributes for men to have. I do not have much hope for Mr. Shiekh Rashid but the new generation of men might take a different route than its predecessors. It is also time for male politicians and our educated lot to start respecting women and stop using them for put downs and swear words. Enough of Bilo Rani, enough of using phrases like ‘wearing bangles like a woman’, enough of phrases like dopatta pehen lo (wear a veil). If social scientists and gender experts and so many women failed to change the men then brain surgery might be the answer.

 

Fouzia Saeed

Pakistan Fellow at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Washington DC   @FouziaSaeed

 


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Pakistan Rising?

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The current crisis could be seen as an opportunity for democracy to flourish. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pakistan-rising-11354

September 26, 2014

Once again, Pakistan is getting international attention because of a crisis. For several days, a series of rallies and sit-ins against the elected government closed all shops, banks and offices in Islamabad.

Although a march of thousands over tens of kilometers, culminating in a violent sit-in in front of the Parliament sounds “chaotic,” or like it might be a sign of “a crisis,” and “deepening instability,” a closer look might reveal quite the opposite. Protesters still linger in front of the Parliament, but it seems clear that the current government will survive this ordeal. After more than sixty years of shaky democracy in Pakistan, the current government’s ability to withstand some public pressure and avoid a military takeover demonstrates democracy is firmly taking root in Pakistan.

Pakistanis, like Americans, love to criticize their government and its politicians, but in this case, despite their grievances over the shortage of electricity, higher prices and poor security, the general public did not join the “revolution.” Contrary to the image of massive protests in the streets, the current protests have been staged by two different, relatively small political groups: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), led by Imran Khan, with a total of thirty-three seats out of 446 in the two houses of Parliament, and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), which has no seats in the Parliament.

During the first week of the shut down, I went to a major shopping area. A small ice cream vendor with his portable machine was open. I asked him why he didn’t go closer to the demonstrators, as they were asking for food and snacks. He replied, “No, thank you. I don’t need that kind of a degrading income. I can see beyond the slogans. What they are doing is not in favor of our country.”

The root of the current crisis is far from the media image presented of the people railing against a bad government. Rather, it comes from the ongoing struggle between civilian and military authority.

There was a time in Pakistan’s history when any uprising would become a reason for a military takeover. Once in power, the military would start tampering with the Constitution and maneuvering the Judiciary to legitimize their rule. We have spent nearly half our independent existence under military rule.

In the past, political parties would also maneuver to get the military to undermine their opponents. However, in 2006, towards the end of President Musharraf’s reign, the two main political parties signed a pact called the Charter of Democracy, which not only framed the major structural changes that both parties would support to ensure strong independent democratic institutions, but also prevented them from making deals with the military, no matter who won the election.

After the election of 2008, the agreement held, despite breaches from both sides. By 2010, there was sufficient agreement for all political forces to undertake the difficult exercise of reforming the Constitution. During a year-long process, a committee formed of fourteen political parties ranging from the most secular to most religious, altogether proposing over 100 changes in the Constitution. These were combined in the 18th Constitutional Amendment, which was passed unanimously by both houses of Parliament. The reforms included giving greater autonomy to the provinces, ensuring the independence of the judiciary and many other changes to bring the Constitution back to its democratic form of 1973. One significant change was to eliminate the article that allowed the president to use his discretion to remove any government from power. In addition, the office of the president ceded most of its authority back to the prime minister, further weakening the ability of the military to use constitutional means to undermine a government. The military reacted badly to this, but failed in its attempts to undermine the implementation process.

The current government won a clear majority in the 2013 election with 190 seats in the National Assembly and a total of 204 in both houses. It immediately asserted its role in foreign policy as well as in national security, an area that the military had always claimed as its arena. They also brought the former president Musharraf to trial for his role in undermining the Constitution. This move was also quite unpopular with the military establishment.

The most remarkable aspect of this current crisis, something that has never happened before, is that the opposition parties stood by the government against these attempts to derail the democratic process. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), with a total of eighty-seven seats in both the houses, is leading the opposition parties and has assured full support to the government. In addition, most of the intellectuals, media and the general public stood together against this undemocratic attempt to unseat the elected government. Out of a population of over 180 million, barely 20,000 protested. Despite the calls from Imran Khan for the whole country to join him in this “revolution for a New Pakistan,” the public did not join him. A few rallies of his party workers in Lahore and Karachi were held in solidarity, but it appears the nation has seen this clearly as a power struggle and has taken a stand with the elected government, despite dissatisfaction on many issues.

An editorial by a leading newspaper, Dawn, on September 2 concluded: “The army is hardly being ‘neutral.’ It is making a choice. And it is disappointing that choice is doing little to strengthening the constitutional democratic and legitimate scheme of things.”

Political commentators would normally view an outcome where a democratic government held the military at bay as quite a healthy process for an “emerging democracy.” However, it is rare that any analyst these days is able to see the glass half-full when it comes to Pakistan.

Although the crisis is not fully over, it is realistic to believe that Pakistan’s democracy has been strengthened by this. In a country like ours, with huge armed forces and a history of coups, it will likely take years to achieve a real balance between the civilian and military authorities. However, we should give some credit to Imran Khan for creating a situation where all the other political parties in the Parliament, including his own allies, stood in solidarity for democracy. Perhaps this could be the beginning of a “New Pakistan.”

 Fouzia Saeed is Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Director of Mehergarh: A Center for Learning. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

 

 

 


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Every institution failed Amina

http://tribune.com.pk/story/758534/comment-every-institution-failed-amina/

By Fouzia Saeed, Pakistan Fellow at Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC

Published: September 6, 2014

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Amina set herself on fire in front of the police station in Muzaffargarh on the 5th of March 2014 because her rapists were released with the help of the police.  Her case created a media hype. Despite getting attention from the highest authorities it fell into the routine game playing of the police. Unfortunately, Amina’s parents did not get justice. The court acquitted the culprits on the basis of significant doubt and limited evidence. 

Amina was an 18-year-old first year student.   On the 5th of January 2014, she was travelling with her brother on his motorbike, when four men stopped them and attacked her, tearing her clothes and attempting to rape her.   Some people living close by came out and chased the men away. A woman put a chador around her to cover her body.

Later, her family said that the man accused of being the ringleader of the group was the brother of her sister’s husband.  He apparently had asked several times, but her parents refused every time. They were already very unhappy about their other daughter’s marriage to that family.

Amina became furious when after three months, the police not only released the culprits, but also submitted that there was no evidence to uphold any claim. Thus the case was thrown out. Her deadly protest generated reaction.

On March 14th, the opposition in the Punjab Assembly complained about the pitiable law and order situation in the province.  Although the Law Minister gave a long speech explaining what the government would do to ensure a proper outcome, the opposition still walked out in protest.

The CM visited her family and appointed an additional IG with instructions to deliver a report immediately. When the CM took notice, the police went into their usual cover-up routine. The CM intervened again and suspended the RPO and DPO for not taking action and instructed to arrest the DSP, SHO and Investigating officer of the Police Station Mir Hazar Khan for negligence.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan also took suo motu notice and considered the actions of the police to be in violation of Articles 9, Articles 4, 25(3) and 37(d) of the Constitution. They immediately asked for the police reports. Hearing the usual story from the Additional IG of Punjab, that the whole case had been fabricated, the Chief Justice (at that time) Tassaduq Husain Jillani rejected the opinion, offered deep condolences to the mother of Amina and instructed a Sessions Judge to investigate the case properly.

As soon as the new notoriety surrounding her death faded, the usual police tactics took over. They immediately released the DSP and SHO from jail and re-amended  the FIR (no 31/14), removing the references to PPC sections (322, 201) and the Anti-terrorism Act section 155-c, 7 that had been added under the orders of the Supreme Court. Amina’s lawyer moved to re-amend the FIR but the submission was rejected and even the high court no longer seemed interested to pursue it further.

A series of bizarre stories soon started to circulate within the Muzaffargarh social circles creating doubts about the honesty of the victim. This is another tactic very skilfully applied by the police.

After the CM’s intervention and the response of the Supreme Court, Amina’s parents felt brave enough to pursue the case to get justice for their daughter. Unfortunately, although the CM allegedly promised Rs500,000 to cover the family’s legal fees, no money was ever received, and no one among the higher authorities is following the case any longer.

The Session court has just decided to acquit the culprits, and the investigation officer who was still in jail, for lack of evidence. The ability of the police to re-frame charges, conduct shoddy investigations, falsify evidence in order to create doubts works every time. Nothing in this story is new to anyone who has looked into the crime of rape in Pakistan. These are classic tactics applied to every case since it is always the culprit who is willing to pay more in bribes to get the case thrown out and is usually more politically powerful than the victim’s family.   Because of this collusion between the police and criminals, the conviction rate for rape cases in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is less than one percent.

If this is the fate of rape investigations in cases that get substantial media attention, we can only imagine what happens to those that go through the normal process. A few days ago another gang rape victim in Dera Ghazi Khan set herself on fire because the police released the rapists. Is that going to be the future for rape victims in Pakistan? Will the rule of law ever become a priority for women in our society?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2014.

 


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Can we craft a new electoral system in Pakistan?

A colleague of mine wrote this article which i thought was very timely. While a big uproar has engulfed the country on unfair elections of 2013 and the PTI supporters are gearing for a long March, some people are taking steps to come up with proposals or at least set up a process to review the election mechanism. The initiative of the Parliament to set up a committee to come up with recommendations of reforms is a step forward.

Can we craft a new electoral system   by Zafarullah Khan

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

With the formation of a 33-member Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER) the ball has finally arrived in the political-and-parliamentary court.

Electoral reforms primarily belongs to the political domain; in the past it tried to plug some holes via computerised electoral lists based on ‘one CNIC-one vote’, a full time Election Commission appointed through parliamentary scrutiny and insurance for continuity through a neutral caretaker setup. Judicial activism also tried to check the use and abuse of money, media and muscle.

These piecemeal transplants over an archaic electoral system based on outdated statutes didn’t yield enough dividends, yet the country witnessed its first ever civilian to civilian transition and transfer of power. The slightly improved system also demonstrated its capacity to expose ‘electoral thieves’ and subsequently generated demands for electoral reforms in public and political spheres.

Effective democratic architecture is founded on undisputed electoral legitimacy determined through clean votes, therefore responding to rising political temperatures and calls for audit of Election-2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wrote a letter to the speaker of the National Assembly on June 10, 2014 to constitute a parliamentary committee to address the issue.

According to the motion adopted on June 19, 2014 in the National Assembly the PCER is mandated to evaluate shortcomings of previous elections and make recommendations for electoral reforms for free, fair and transparent elections within three months from the date of its notification. Meaning thereby, the PCER has to work day and night for 92 days to complete its task of preparing comprehensive reforms package or suggestions to completely overhaul the system by October 25, 2014.

The odd thing is that mere constitution of the committee consumed 45 days. Similar lacklustre attitude will be fatal during the agreed short life of the PECR. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which emerged as the harbinger of electoral reforms, has already cautioned that the PCER shall not be used as a ‘delaying tactic’ to defuse their struggle – which otherwise is gaining momentum. To alleviate fears a parliamentary pledge has been made that the timeframe given to the committee will not be extended at any cost.

The scope of work of the PCER includes, but is not limited to, making recommendations to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, adoption of the latest technology, proposing necessary legislation or constitutional amendments, if required. One expects that with this explicit mandate the PCER will opt for out-of-the-box solutions and instead of relying on fixing the old system here and there, it will come up with a modern electoral system that will be compatible with the technological possibilities of electronic-voting.

Perhaps it is time to shift from manual to modern technological e-voting, e-voter registration plus verification, e-counting and swift electoral grievance redress mechanisms in Pakistan. In this way, with the change of electoral software, the hardware of country’s electoral machinery – more specifically the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – would require a different kind of leadership and human resources to internalize reforms and vanguard nation’s political wealth. In the past despite efforts the ECP couldn’t reclaim its original soul and spirit because military regimes used it as an instrument to earn legitimacy for usurpers through fraudulent referendums in 1984 and 2002.

One expects that the committee will also dedicate its energies to democratise qualification and disqualification criteria enlisted in Article 62 and 63. The minimum will be to delete dictatorial clause inserted during General Zia’s regime as they have confused the political narrative in the country. The committee shall also revisit the Political Party Order-2002 as it was promulgated by yet another military regime and falls short on fixing any spending limit on parties and a proper audit of parties’ financial statements. The law is totally silent about the formation of election alliances and this lacuna has been exploited well by banned outfits that contested previous election.

This politics-led indigenous initiative for reforms must take into account the country’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and many other pledges that assert citizens’ right to be governed democratically and be able to participate and run for an elected office.

There is a significant body of knowledge on what ails Pakistan’s electoral system. The list of problems is long – ranging from ghost polling stations to troubles in trustworthy counting and record keeping. The Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Law has done lot of homework. The Special Committee on Election Issues in the Senate also held public hearing and series of consultative meetings. The PCER shall also hold public hearings or at least solicit citizen’s suggestions for electoral reforms. In this regard political parties are the main stakeholders and those who are currently out of parliament and continue to create chaos shall also be consulted to make this process more inclusive. Over the years international donors have also spent millions of dollars to fix the fractured electoral system.

Dissection of the composition of the PCER reveals that out of 18 political parties with representation in the National Assembly only three single legislator parties – the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, the National Party of Dr Malik Baloch and tthe All Pakistan Muslim League of General Musharraf – have been denied berth in the committee comprising 16 parties and independents from Fata.

The single-senator National Party has also been ignored by the Senate, which contributed 11 members to the PCER. The committee includes nine legislators who had been members of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms that cobbled the 18th Amendment. There are four women legislators from the lower house but there is no representation of religious minorities. The speaker is empowered to replace any member of the committee on the request of the parliamentary party leader concerned. The leading parties must consider inclusion of those who have been excluded in the first notification.

Nevertheless a window of opportunity has been created to reform the country’s electoral system to make it more inclusive and transparent. This moment must be seized because a trustworthy electoral system along with an independent judiciary and free media will be the key to a better democratic future. This will be happening amid a climate of political confusions and chaos characterised by calls for marches and so-called revolution. Only time will tell whether the political class will be able to ward off any future coup de grace against the fragile and transitory democracy or complicate the matter further.

The writer is an Islamabad-based civic educator/researcher with an interest in federalism and democratic development.

 

 


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Welcome to the new Chief Justice in Pakistan

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Justice Nasirul Mulk was sworn in as the 22nd Chief Justice of Pakistan. Although we all are excited about a person who is very honest and committed on fundamental human rights in this position, we are concerned about the challenges he will have to face in a crisis prone environment and power brokers in every sector. he was among the judges who were deposed and suffered equally with the judges who took a stance on the illegitimate Martial Rule.

Mukhtara mai’s gang rape case became an icon for the struggle of women against violence. It went on for 8 years and finally met a disappointing fate at the Supreme court. Only one rapist was convicted all the others equally guilty in the gang rape went Scott free. Among the three judges on the Panel on Justice Nasir wrote a note of decent and fully supported Mukhtara Mai’s testimony. the decision of the case resulted in nationwide protests but at least women were happy that one of the three judges understood the social pressures women have to go through to file a case of this nature and the social dynamics around such cases. His historic note makes him popular among women and at the same time the expectations from him are more than it would have been from another justice.

He comes from the Swat Valley  and was brought up in a politically and socially aware family. His father was a Senator and so was his brother. He did his law degree from Peshawar in 1972 and his higher studies from London. He became the chief justice of Peshawar high court and was appointed as a Judge of the supreme court on 15 April 2005. Being the most senior Judge after the retirement of the last Chief Justice he has been appointed as the new Chief Justice. This smooth transition helps Pakistan’s judiciary to become stronger.

We welcome Justice Nasirul Mulk as our Chief Justice, a person with unblemished record, with the hope that he will keep the Judiciary independent. We need this support to stabilise our democracy.

 


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My experience of working with the women’s ministry

Elitist NGOs, some high-flying consultants and the top brand of development donor agencies still miss the Federal Women’s Ministry. It was so nice to have that small club for women’s issues, mutually beneficial to all players — well, except the women of Pakistan. Long after the Eighteenth Amendment devolved this subject to the provinces, nostalgic sentiments came surging back and small groups continue to lobby with donors to pressure the government into bringing the ministry back. The donors nod profusely in agreement, as going to the provinces is cumbersome. They question the government’s ‘commitment to women’s issues’. Of course, hardly any of these donor countries have a women’s ministry at home, yet all of them have critical women’s issues of their own to address.

Let’s look at the history of the ministry.

The Division of Women’s Development was founded in 1979. Please remember that the most devastating laws against women, the infamous Hudood Ordinance, were brought out in the same year. The division was created right before going to the United Nation’s Second World Conference on Women in Copenhagen in 1980. With all the restrictions and black laws against women, the government wanted to improve its image for the international audience. However, the government continued to trample on women’s rights for a decade while this division became a part of the establishment.

The division was upgraded to a full ministry by Benazir Bhutto’s government in its effort to revive women’s rights. The intention was good and some projects were initiated, but moving the bureaucracy was a serious challenge as it remained resistant to women’s empowerment throughout its existence. The social stigma attached to working at the ministry made this the last choice for postings. As a result, most secretaries were placed there as their last stop before retirement, with a turnover of up to four secretaries a year. With the exception of Salim Mehmood Salim, the others were least bothered about their portfolio.

This ministry was not based on substantive themes, like agriculture, for example. It was also never intended to be an implementing ministry, but to advise other ministries on women’s issues, which almost never happened and its influence on national policy was close to zero. In the 35 years of its existence, the ministry has hardly anything to show as its own initiative. The list of achievements in women’s empowerment were pushed by either strong political leaders or by civil society networks.

By and large, conservative men occupied key mid-level positions and hardly any of them supported the idea of women’s empowerment. They stalled on all progressive measures advanced by political leaders and continuously undermined the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), established in 2001. Each chair of the commission had to fight with the bureaucracy to get access to their allocated budget and staff. The ministry’s own staff blocked amendments to the NCSW’s law for seven years until 2012, when the commission got its independence in the last government.

While the commission was still intact, the donors who had women’s empowerment as a priority steadily poured funds in the ministry’s bottomless pit to ‘build its capacity’. One after the other, ministry officials set up units inside the ministry with highly paid consultants who would act on behalf of the ministry, hosting big events, so that donors could be consoled that the ministry had improved because of their efforts. These consultants departed as soon as the funds dried up, leaving the ministry with the same bitter men. Over the years I have seen at least six donors engaging in the expensive exercise of ‘capacity building’ and repeating each other’s mistakes. I used to call this ‘propping the ministry with toothpicks’. One heavily funded project on large-scale gender mainstreaming placed in the ministry turned out to be such a disaster that most of the funds were never used. The project evaluation had to be revised thrice so that the donor would not look so bad.

Although I have engaged closely with the division, and then the ministry, since 1987, I learned the details of its operations during the advocacy for the sexual harassment policy and legislation. From 2001 to 2010, I noticed, via first-hand exposure, how this ministry had become a major hurdle in the path of women’s empowerment. In the years 2008 to 2010, when the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment was lobbying for the anti-sexual harassment bills, the ministry did everything in its power to quash the bills. It was only the political leadership that saved the day. At the tail-end of the process, in 2009, I watched the secretary, like a child who could not have his way, purposefully presenting the bills to a Cabinet meeting in such negative way that former information minister Sherry Rehman had to cover it up with her positive comments.

I thank the Eighteenth Amendment Constitutional Reform Committee for pushing against the vested interests in the donor, NGO and consultant community to rid us of at least one of the big hurdles to women’s empowerment. To the policymakers, I ask, if all social sectors have been devolved then why should the women’s portfolio be returned as a federal subject? With the capacity of the federal level openly witnessed in the past decades, they should not raise questions on the provincial capacity. For donors, the Economic Affairs Division is sufficient to channel your funds to emphasise gender issues in sectoral projects at the provincial level. It is rather difficult for us to structure our country to suit others’ convenience.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2014.

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