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Women issues between centre and provinces: NA committee seeks formation of coordination panel

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly`s Standing Committee on Women Development on Thursday recommended formation of a committee to coordinate between provinces and the centre on issues related to women development and their rights after the devolution of the ministry under the 18th Amendment by the end of this month.

The committee, which met under its chairperson Bushra Gohar of Awami National Party, was briefed by a senior official of the ministry about the devolution process, saying it would help deal with issues related to women`s rights at the grassroots level.

The committee recommended that a social sector coordination committee of the cabinet, on the pattern of Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), should be formed and activated immediately after the devolution of the ministry of women`s development to provinces.

The committee, according to an official handout, also recommended that the National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) should be kept intact to work as a strategic body. Moreover, the committee recommended that a helpline for women should also be established to receive complaints in an effort to help control crimes.

It was an important meeting keeping in view the fact that a number of other standing committees like environment, minorities affairs and education have been opposing the devolution of the ministries to the provinces for various reasons, knowing well that it was impossible without amending the Constitution once again.

The country`s leading civil society and women`s rights organisations were also divided over the issue of the devolution of the ministry of women`s development to provinces. However, after a series of consultative meetings and discussions, representatives of these major organisations agreed in principle to the planned devolution of the ministry, but failed to come out with a joint stand after failing to completely reconcile their differences on the issue.

Previously, the members of the standing committees on education and minorities affairs had even decided to send their recommendations in writing to Senator Raza Rabbani, the chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Implementation of 18th Amendment, asking him to review the decision.

There is a feeling among political circles that some powerful bureaucrats and high-ranking officials are behind such moves as they fear that they will lose their present status after transfer of the ministries to the provinces.

Mr Rabbani has already stated that he sees no use in sending recommendations of the committee to him as he has no powers to change the Constitution. Moreover, he has also reportedly stated that the ministries would automatically be devolved to provinces, if not done so after the expiry of June 30 deadline as given in the Constitution.

Source: Dawn