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Women lawmakers oppose proposed amendment to election law

Women lawmakers oppose proposed amendment to election law

ISLAMABAD: Emphasising the importance of pro-women electoral reforms, women legislators from the Provincial Assembly of Punjab called upon the federal government to reconsider the proposed amendment to Section 104 of the Elections Act 2017 which provided heads of political parties with more leverage in selection of candidates for reserved seats.

A part of the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021, the proposed amendment, if passed, would allow political parties to submit a final priority list of candidates for seats reserved for women and non-Muslims within three days after the declaration of the general election results.

This amendment will compromise the merit for reserved seat candidates and must not be approved by parliament, resolved the legislators at a workshop organised by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability and Free and Fair Election Network (TDEA-Fafen).

The workshop was part of TDEA-Fafan’s women leadership development programme that sought to support reserved seat women legislators to contest the upcoming elections on general seats.

Leading parliamentary experts, officials of Punjab Assembly secretariat and civil society representatives addressed the workshop.

MPAs Uzma Kardar, Saadia Sohail Rana, Kanwal Liaquat, Shazia Abid, Sabrina Javed, Farah Agha, Aisha Nawaz, Shahida Ahmad, Khadija Umar, Sajida Begum, Aysha Iqbal, Bushra Anjum, Sabeen Gul, Shamim Aftab, Rahila Khadim and Salma Sadia Taimoor participated in the workshop.

Speaking to the participants, former senator Farhatullah Babar said the reservation of seats had empowered political parties’ leadership far more than it empowered women.

He lamented the political parties’ habit of treating women politicians as proxy of men. He said nearly all political parties avoided awarding tickets to women in the constituencies with a strong party vote bank.

He urged the participants to understand their rights and privileges as legislators and exercise them to hold the government and political leadership accountable in the assembly.

He lauded the legislators’ efforts to steer pro-women legislation in assemblies.

Women legislators from both the treasury and opposition benches took exception to the gender-based discrimination during the house proceedings. They said reserved seat women were treated as mere numbers required to complete quorum or to win a vote. They also underscored the lack of research and legislative drafting support. The legislators from across the aisle vowed to work together on women issues.

TDEA Chief Executive Officer Shahid Fiaz said women legislators could greatly benefit from civil society’s expertise in diverse fields. Extending support to the legislators in building their interest-based constituencies, he said TDEA-Fafen’s rich data on elections and governance could help legislators in their legislative and constituency duties.

Fafen’s executive council members Umme Kulsoom and Syed Kausar Abbas also assured the legislators of Fafen’s complete support in legislative participation as well as community outreach. They highlighted the under-registration of women in electoral rolls and urged the women legislators to lure this untapped vote-bank to their side by running registration drives in their constituencies. They stressed the need for holistic electoral reforms focusing on women’s political participation.

Source: Dawn

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