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Pakistan's women poised for power

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    Pakistan's women poised for power

    It seems that Pakistani women are on the threshold of unprecedented political power, at the local level anyway.

    As most of the problems of our country are local the women of Pakistan will be able to play a decisive role in the future of our country.

    Lets hope so


    Pakistan's women poised for power

    By Susannah Price in Islamabad

    This week's local council polls in Pakistan will be the first elections since the military government seized power in a coup more than a year ago.

    The polls, being held on 31 December, are being seen as a test of the government's commitment to return to democracy within the next two years.

    For the first time ever, a third of the seats in the upcoming local polls are being reserved exclusively for women as part of a radical reform of government.

    In small villages, the local elections could bring about a major change, by offering women a new and far more prominent role.

    The village of Megha in rural Punjab can only be reached by a bumpy muddy road surrounded by a flat expanse of neatly tended fields.

    The villagers are employed as labourers, harvesting wheat and vegetables.

    The poorest women here work on the land, while those from better off families are cloistered behind high brick walls surrounding the family homes.


    The decision to set aside a third of the seats on the local councils for women has caused much excitement in the village.

    Shahzada, an outspoken grandmother, has put herself forward as one of the candidates.

    In this district just over 1,000 women are standing for 600 seats. In other more conservative areas the numbers are much lower.

    Poor women work on the land

    Shahzada visits her neighbours to explain why they should vote. She feels it's important that ordinary women are involved.

    "The reason we took the decision to contest is so we can leave our work in the fields... so we shall see how these government institutions are run," she said.

    "When we see the educated people contesting elections then we want to follow suit," she added.

    The villagers say the previous local administrations did little to raise their living standards - there is a school but no medical facilities.

    It's hoped the elected women will focus on social issues.

    Key to power

    Women's groups have hailed the decision to give women a leading role in local government, but they say the authorities haven't done enough to publicise the move or help those who want to be involved.

    And there are concerns that genuine independent women may not get a chance of being elected.

    Although the local elections are supposed to be non-political, most women who are standing either have support from political groupings, or backing from influential individuals.

    Dr Farzana Bari, who works with a non-governmental organisation trying to mobilise ordinary women, believes they will have a difficult time.

    "I think there will certainly be some women coming in specially in business and workers seats but on general seats I would imagine the women will have support from the local traditional elite and the power brokers," Dr Bari says.

    "I don't think they will be coming independently."


    The government is working hard to revise the badly outdated electoral roles and provide everyone with an identity card to allow them to vote.

    Officials at the national database and registration authority in Islamabad say they will have the new voter lists ready for the 18 districts voting in the first round.

    Poor illiterate women though have found it difficult to fill in the forms and apply for an identity card needed for voting.

    But the Women's Minister, Dr Atiya Inayatullah, says despite the problems, the reservation planned for women in unprecedented.

    "It is the greatest revolution that has taken place in terms of women, women's lives and women's future in Pakistan," she says.

    "But this revolution must be converted into an evolution so that we institutionalise and make it a process whereby women are there to stay, and they are a part of the political process.

    "And if we are able to do that, at the grassroots level, I can assure you we are in business," she added.


    I hope this is true.

    You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!


      musharraf is right on the money when it comes to empowering women.

      in Pakistan its not uncommon to notice the boys especially in their youth wasting their time on the streets, riding bikes, walking in the bazaars, wasting their time on all sorts of stuff.

      while the girls of their age, work in banks, go to schools and are busy supporting their families and even their useless brothers. while women can find jobs easily in cities... its hightime that women are encouraged to work in villages and suburban areas as well. they have certainly better work ethics than our male population.

      a more balanced representation in govt is certainly a good step. lets hope that it gets implemented.


        look at bangaldesh women priminister is doing
        good job
        it is a good move where local women at village level take care of local issues.
        they may be better managers and less corrupt

        [This message has been edited by rvikz (edited December 29, 2000).]


          Well put Mundyaa. Its about time the women of Pakistan take their rightful place in all sections of our society and start to make their voices heard more loudly. We had a woman Prime Minister not to long ago but she was more interested in furthering her financial stock rather than that of Pakistani women. Previous attempts to empower Pakistani women by having reserved seats in the National Assembly, a women's ministry and a couple of women ministers now and then have hardly enhanced the political role of Pakistani women.

          General Musharraf has exactly the right idea on the correct way to increase the political representation of women. His ambitious local government plan has 1/3 of the seats reserved for women at all the layers of local government. So women will make up 1/3 of the membership of all village, union, tehsil and district level bodies. Its at these levels that our women can truly shape and change our society for the better. After all who is more aware than the wife and mother of the daily needs of her children her household and others around her?

          I hope that the plan is seen through to its entirety and that women not just get themselves elected but make their voices heard from the village to the thana and further.




              I just get this image of a district council meeting with two groups of women standing opposite each other with one hand on their hip whilst with the other waving at the opposition and shouting "haan haan kalmoohi ... "


                LOL Vehshi but at least there will be many many more women in these district councils than at present. And that can only be a good thing. I am the first to confess that women are not just the gentler sex but the most sensible as well. This measure is well overdue and will propel women to more power than ever before, and give them the chance to use their natural "political" superiority for better things

                Brilliant move General Musharraf!


                  I hope this move will bring some positive steps in t/ near future in regard to womens' issues.

                  Womens' education will now hopefully be one of t/ top priorities in our country, and equal opportunity will be given to women of different economic backgrounds instead of t/ few priveliged ones.


                    Well Funky one of the areas devoloved from the provinces to the locla level is education. And with women occupying at least 1/3 of the seats in all local bodies they will be well placed to push for more rural edcation especially in the villages.

                    More village schools means less people walking miles to town for schooling, at least in the primary years. And as part of the local government plan there is what is called horizontal cooperation. The Village, Union, Tehsil and District councils have to work more closely together to form policies.


                      Yes Malik, definitely a good move by our CE. Let's hope 4-t/ best.


                        nice to see an article of a positive nature concerning Pakistani women
                        hope this works out

                        "Amor Fati"


                          Well according to reports in the papers there has been an unprecedented turnout in the elections being conducted in the 18 districts today. People were forming long queues to vote and prominent among them were Pakistani women.

                          Good news indeed! Its a sign that people are more enthused about General Musharraf's plans than some would have us believe.

                          Pakistani women rule!


                            What will happen to these womens once Pakistan becomes talibanised?


                              Sad Indian trying to spoil a perfectly good topic. Whats wrong Sajjadam are you so jealous that thinks are looking up for Pakistani women?

                              [This message has been edited by Malik73 (edited December 31, 2000).]