Friday January 27, 2023

Disenfranchisement of women in Upper Dir

December 31, 2017

Time for PPP to act against Benazir’s betrayers

By Mariana Baabar

ISLAMABAD: There can be no greater disloyalty than betrayal to the dead. As the 10th death anniversary of Pakistan’s most exceptional and memorable politician Benazir Bhutto was being observed, it coincided with reports that over 14,000 women voters were deprived of their right to cast vote during the local government by-elections of tehsil and village council seats in two Upper Dir districts.

There is no doubt that elections 2018 will see a repeat of this pattern not only in Upper Dir, but also in many other governed areas of Pakistan.

But why focus on the PPP when there were other political parties, including the so-called progressive ANP, allowing the “Men’s Only” club to bar women from voting? The answer is simple. One does not have high hopes from any of the other parties but the PPP is different and for it to once again allow the local chapters to disfranchise a woman’s right to vote would have been something Ms Bhutto would not have tolerated — a fact that the PPP leaders know too well. That the PPP is doing some unspeakable things like breaking bread with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Pakistan Tehreek Insaf in Lahore, which is mind-boggling in itself, but to become party to local arrangements and keep women with PPP leaders facing the risk of being declared ‘corrupt’ for violating Article 25 of the Constitution, raises several questions. The PPP has violated the Constitution in the last few elections; they are doing it now in the by-elections and they will continue to do so in 2018.

Notes The News in an editorial, “All political parties should publicly announce that they will not hold back women voters in any part of the country or bow down to what is called ‘tradition’ to do so”.

Bilawal Bhutto spoke out passionately in Gari Khuda Bakhsh mentioning several times how the PPP has and will continue to support the Pakistani women.

Did it escape him or was he cautioned not to upset the patriarchal system in place in areas where his party sides with those that are bent upon keeping women in the confines of the Stone Age? Does the PPP selectively allow its local leaders to join hands with the right wingers when it suits them or is the issue of no consequence?

Surely, there could be no greater betrayal to the memory of the woman that they had gathered to pay respects to, when the future leader of the party Bilawal Bhutto said, “Benazir was punished because of advocating the rights of farmers, youth, women , and demanding rights for minorities”.

He promised to give back the dreams that the PPP had promised so it would be a great start if he looked into areas where Ms Bhutto’s local party leaders have joined hands with narrow-minded so-called traditionalists that choose when they want to be ‘conservative’ and deprive women of their constitutional rights.

Responsibility also lies with the Election Commission of Pakistan, but nothing stops the PPP leadership to remove those that practice ‘exclusion’ and replace them with bolder, more confident leaders who will set examples for other backward parties to follow suit.

In his message on International Women’s Day Bilawal Bhutto talked about Ms Bhutto’s achievements where she led all the weak segments of the society especially the women launching concerted efforts for women empowerment and gender equality in Pakistan.

“From the establishment of First Women Bank, induction of women in higher judiciary and separate police stations for women to distribution of land among landless women peasants, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took every possible efforts to promote women into the national mainstream as equal partners in progress,” he said.

He said the PPP had established a full-fledged Women Development Department in Sindh and awarded tickets to women defeating their powerful rivals.