The social revolution in Muslim women empowerment was brought by Quaid-e-Azam. His sister Fatima Jinnah actively participated in all political activities of the era and became the symbol of new and empowered women.
The very first clear and official involvement of women was seen in 1938 in Patna, where Quaid created women wing of All India Muslim League. The other remarkable names of women in politics at that time include Zari Sarfaraz, Lady Abdullah Haroon, Beghum Salma Tasaduq Hussain, Jahanara Shahnawaz, and Beghum Fatima.
However, after the 1947 historical event, participation of women in politics was confined to reserved seats in national assembly only. General Musharraf increased the quota of reserved seats to 60 which previously was 10 in 1973 constitution, this however became for political parties mere bonus in their house representation.
The opponents argued that women should not be considered as political “token”, instead they should compete with males in open elections to enter the house.
One big flaw that deters women empowerment in its true essence is that parties accommodate women from the elite and influential families on these seats mostly, ignoring the very genuine party workers. These women mostly propagate the agenda of their political forefathers instead of following their own vision.
Women equality in politics is not an agenda of any party in Pakistan. Women arre sent to talk shows to portray an image of progressive politics.
For upcoming 2018 elections, the three prominent parties including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehrek e Insaaf (PTI), and Pakistan Muslim League N (PML-N) have issued the minimum possible tickets to women to meet the 5% representation rule.
PTI issued 14 out of 244, PPP issued 12 out of 176, and PML-N issued 5 out of 125 national assembly tickets to women. The nominated candidates are mostly the old, familiar faces. Most of them got entry into politics through the influential male members of their family.
Some prominent names include Mariyam Nawaz (Daughter of ex-prime minister), Faryal Talpor and Dr. Azra Shah (sisters of ex-president Asif Ali Zardari), Dr. Firdaous Ashiq Awan (former minister).
However, this time PTI took a great step by awarding ticket to Hameeda Shahid from NA-10 (Upper Dir). In this constituency, ladies were not allowed to cast their votes in past followed by a clandestine agreement among the political parties. Hence, the nomination of a woman candidate in general elections is a great mile stone achieved in this context by the former ruling party there.
When it comes to giving representation to women from the minority backgrounds in national assembly, no party bothered to go against the waves.
Women have become only the extension or proxies of their male politician colleagues. Political parties introduce women candidates apparently to get the reserved seats only.
Some of the women were nominated on behalf of their disqualified husband or father. For instance, Fatima Tahir Cheema will contest in Bahawalpur from PTI ticket after his father disqualified on legal grounds. Similarly, former prime minister’s constituency has been given to his daughter to compete and kick-start her career after his ineligibility to do so.
Quaid said on an occasion:
“No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world. One is the sword and the other the pen. However there is a third power stronger than both, that of women”
To bring women in the forefront of politics has become a subject of classical debate. Like other government institutions, there is no woman at the senior level in election commission itself.
The exception bringing solace in this regard is a senator, Krishna Kumari. Her tenure will help to anticipate the future of minority women in the mainstream Pakistani political table.
It has become a global realization that gender equality in all the main decision-making platforms is necessary to enhance the positive input of women in the development at a state level.
All parties must go under audit, more rigorous laws should be developed to make sure the effective participation of women in all political activities. Above all, women will themselves have to stand up to get their deserving representation in all aspects of political borders.