close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
 
July 27, 2020

Women in politics

Editorial

 
July 27, 2020

Numerous studies from two decades in Pakistan have indicated that what little empowerment of women we have seen till now has stemmed from the increased representation in local governments. This increase to 33 percent took place in 2001. As a result, Pakistan ranks as a nation with a comparatively high representation of women in government when compared to other developing countries. But now under the new local government system this representation has fallen to less than 7 percent. A report on the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 highlights that the representation of women, peasants and labourers as well as minorities has been considerably lowered. A study on this piece of legislation was issued by the Women in Struggle for Empowerment in Lahore. Religious minorities are now represented by only 2 to 3 percent of members, further down from an already negligible 5 percent in 2001.

This change does not coincide with the government’s promises to further empower women and other vulnerable groups in order to create a more equitable society. In the history of Pakistan very few efforts have been made to change the marginalized nature of groups represented on reserved seats. Other experts have said the ratio for women must not fall below 33 percent at all LG tiers. There was also a demand for the restoration of representation for youth and for workers.

There can be no doubt that democracy can be better served by having a diversity in representation in local government and its other tiers rather than excluding large portions of the population based on their religion, gender, age and employment. The inclusion of marginalized groups is necessary to create a local government system which can represent all its citizens. The subject of local government was devolved to provinces following the 18th Amendment. Provincial governments have developed their own laws but, with the exception of Balochistan, which held LG polls in 2015, have avoided installing the local government system through election. Local governments are essential to people because they are the most approachable level of governance for citizens. Naturally if there is diversity within them more citizens would feel at ease when bringing forward their problems to these setups. Punjab has done a huge disservice to vulnerable groups by cutting the representation available to them. This will have an impact on democratic development in the country, with local governments serving as the first step in the ladder for political workers to move further up towards provincial and then even national assemblies. It is unfortunate also that change has been ignored by the federal government. The prime minister and his team have consistently promised to create a more equal society. This is achieving just the opposite.