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August 27, 2009

Distribution of uplift funds


Maria Shirazi
August 27, 2009

PESHAWAR: Deputy parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) in NWFP Assembly Nighat Orakzai is the only woman MPA elected against reserved seat, who is getting her entire development funds while the rest of her women colleagues from so-called liberal parties could not utilise their entire funds without the prior approval of their parliamentary leaders.

It is astonishing to note that the liberal parties claiming to be the champion of democracy and women rights have denied their women MPAs equal rights while the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), considered to be anti-women, had not imposed any restriction on their women MPAs.

On condition of anonymity, a number of women legislators elected against the reserved seats from moderate parties complained against the existing procedure of distributing development funds and appreciated the attitude of the MMA towards their women MPAs as well as the bold stance of Nighat Orakzai.

Comparing the role of the moderate and progressive parties and MMA, the women MPAs said the MMA parliamentary leader had given full authority to the party women legislators over funds spending issue while the liberal parties had adopted a cumbersome procedure for distribution of development funds only to “discourage, harass and blackmail” them.

“We cannot oppose our parliamentary leaders on utilising our uplift funds issue despite the fact we know it is neither in the Constitution nor anywhere in the rules of business,” said a disgruntled MPA while referring towards her party’s strict discipline.

Nighat Orakzai, however, did not agree with her colleagues saying they (women MPAs) should come forward and challenge their parliamentary leaders as to why they were snatching their constitutional and democratic rights from them. She held her women colleagues responsible for the existing state of affairs as they had not recorded even a mild protest against their parliamentary leaders for

their undemocratic behaviour.

“I had told them (women MPAs) in the presence of their parliamentary leaders inside and outside the assembly that I will challenge their parliamentary leaders in the court of law for their rights but none of them spoke for their own rights,” Nighat Orakzai remarked.

Orakzai appreciated the MMA leadership for not imposing any curbs on their women MPAs funds but deplored the role of liberal parties. She suggested to all those claiming to be the champion of women rights to first take their own rights from their own political parties.

The PML-Q legislator also reminded that she had given Rs3.5 million from her development funds to her parliamentary leader on her own will but when this government made the fund distribution complicated for women MPAs, she clearly told her party leader that it was not acceptable to her and she would utilise her own funds like those of the other elected representatives.

The parliamentary leaders of various parties get half of the development funds from their women MPAs, creating unrest and disappointment among them. “Our male colleagues get their funds directly but they have made steering committees and evolved lengthy procedure for us,” said a MPA requesting not to be named.

Another woman lawmaker pointed to the recently passed resolution in the National Assembly to stop discrimination against women. She posed a question as to whether this resolution had been passed only to show it to international community. Instead of paying lip service, the rulers should practically work to end discrimination and empower their own women legislators to prove their sincerity.

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