KARACHI: After a two-year delay, the provincial government is finally taking steps to activate the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women.
A bill was passed in April, 2015 to establish the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women for the promotion of social, economic, political and legal rights of women in the province. However, the government turned apathetic towards women’s issues after the passage of the act and did not bother to draft the required rules. Finally, after around two years, the government has formed a parliamentary committee to finalise the name for the commission’s chairperson, whose status will be equal to that of a provincial minister.
However, sources told The Express Tribune that the government intends to appoint the commission’s chairperson on a political basis – a move that could negate the purpose of the commission.
“As per the law, the chairperson shall be a woman not less than 45 years of age with 15 years experience of working on issues related to women’s rights. She must have leadership qualities and have an understanding of rural and urban issues of women and their socio-economic conditions. But the provincial government intends to appoint a politically motivated person rather than a neutral person to run the affairs of the commission,” a senior official of the women development department told The Express Tribune.
Sources said that the parliamentary committee comprising 10 members from the opposition and treasury benches failed to reach a consensus on a single candidate. Despite the opposition’s reservations, the government is going to give this position to a woman who does not have sufficient experience for a tenure of three years.
The Sindh Commission on the Status of Women will also have 20 other members with experience in the field of women’s rights but this exercise can be futile if political interference dominates the process.
The aims and objectives of the commission reveal that it should examine the policy, programme and other measures taken by the government for gender quality, women empowerment, political participation and representation.
Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Sorath Thebo is one of the members of the parliamentary committee that discussed the appointment of the commission’s chairperson. “We have conducted interviews of a few women but we doubt the government will appoint a candidate on merit,” she said, expressing her reservations. “We have heard that the Pakistan Peoples Party has finalised the name of a woman who is close to the party’s leadership.” She said that they would raise this issue in the upcoming assembly session if a chairperson is appointed on political basis.
Special Assistant to the Chief Minister Irum Khalid denied all the rumours regarding the political affiliation of the person being considered for the position and said, “We have taken all stakeholders into confidence and transparency will be ensured in the appointment of the chairperson and its members”. She said that the process has been done and now the decision rests with the chief minister.
The Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) has been working on this issue since day one. Its senior programme officer, Raheema Panhwar, told The Express Tribune that it was their desire that the commission function in the province at par with Punjab’s commission.
“Ideally, this law should have been implemented within 90 days of the passage of the bill but this never happened. We ran from pillar to post and pursued each official, from the chief secretary to chief minister, opposition leader in Sindh Assembly to others members to expedite this case and finally the commission is about to function in the province,” she said, adding that this commission is an extraordinary effort and will not only review all provincial laws and rules related to women but can suggest legislation, amendments and conduct research on women’s issues.
“It will maintain a database related to women and gender issues to provide knowledge and awareness for government policy and strategic action for women,” she said, adding that the commission members will interact with governmental and non-governmental organisations to achieve gender equality in the province.