LAHORE: South Asia Partnership (SAP) Pakistan and Aurat Foundation held a convention on women’s political participation in Pakistan on Saturday. The focus was on women in local government.
Dorab Patel Auditorium at Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) was jam packed with hundreds of women councillors and women aspiring to contest local government elections. SAP and Aurat Foundation have been raising voice for women’s representation for 30 years now. A number of women in assemblies started their political career from union councils and one woman became speaker.
Local government elections are eagerly awaited and in Punjab role of political parties has increased greatly. Politicians belonging to different political parties shared their views. They called upon women to register votes and push the government and the parties to provide resources to the elected local govt representatives to enable them to be effective.
More than 150 women councilors and those aspiring to become councilors had come from ten districts of Punjab. The councilors said that funding is the question. They said those who won should be honoured by the next government so that they are able to work.
They said no political party wants to empower local government. We do not have democratic attitudes. We want to empower individuals while there is a need for institutional empowerment. Non-state actors have gained ground and we are becoming weaker. We have segmentised society. So long as people are recognised as Chaudhris and Maliks, democracy is not possible. Speaking on the occasion, PPP's Qamar Zaman Kaira recalled the last address of Holy Prophet (PBUH) in which he said, ‘We are not Arabs or Ajams and called upon people to eliminate this difference’. “This is what we need for democracy to prosper,” he said.
Kaira entered politics through local government. He was Nazim at one time and the first chairman of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). He said he insisted that women be beneficiaries of BISP and met with resistance from certain quarters. He called upon people to fight with logic.
Under the new law only political parties can contest local government elections. Even independent candidates will have to come together and register as a panel. They will be given one symbol.
For the first time there will be a seat for disabled persons and one seat for traders’ representative. Minimum age for candidate has been marked as 25 years while for youth representatives the age bracket is between 18-32 years but all can contest in panels only.
Zahid Islam, an expert on Local Government said, committees to mark zones will be announced in February while final UC limits will be announced on March 22.
The ECP official at the event said delimitation of 502 neighbourhood councils of Lahore will start from Monday.
Islam told the aspiring LG candidates, “If you are able to approach 500 households, win is certain.”
He informed the audience about the structure of the new local government in which there will be metropolitan corporation in 11 cities. In Lahore there won’t be any district council, municipal committee or tehsil committee. “Five provincial government departments, among them health and education, will be handed over to the Local Government,” Islam said. He said women can make community-based organisations (CBOs) to make good use of human resource and suggested CBOs for population welfare.
Under the new law, PLGO 2021 there will be a cabinet in every local government. There will be one woman in the cabinet. Farooq Ahmad Khara, an officer in the Local Government, called for increase in women’s representation. He said, if the local government has more than 10 million population then there shall be two women in the cabinet.
Ahmad Iqbal, ex-chairman (Mayor) district Narowal, asked women not to apply on reserved seats, push political parties to make seat for women, ask for 20 per cent seats in Local Government and to read the Supreme Court order on local government. PTI’s Uzma Kardar, PML-Q’s Amna Ulfat, PML-N’s Salma Butt, Samina Saeed of JI, Ammar Jan of Huqooq-e-Khalq and M Tahseen of SAP also spoke.
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