LAHORE: According to a report launched on Saturday, the representation of women has reduced from 33 per cent in 2001 to less than 10 per cent in the new local government system.
This was highlighted in a report titled ‘The Punjab Local Govt Act 2019’, women, peasants and labourers representation ratio has considerably lowered over the time. The report was issued by the Women in Struggle for Empowerment (Wise) in Lahore.
It is the same for religious minorities whose representation has decreased to around two to three percent from an already negligible five percent in 2001.
This decrease negates the government commitments under SDG# 5, its national policies and its action plans devised for the political empowerment of women. While refusing special representation for peasant/labor in the neighborhood councils would lead to further marginalization of the vulnerable sections of society.
Bushra Khaliq, Wise executive director, said the Constitution ensured the political and electoral participation of all marginalized groups in local governance and guarantees to safeguard the interests of all vulnerable sections of society.
“If we glance at the history of local governance in Pakistan, not many genuine efforts have been made to protect the political and electoral interests of the marginalized sections and to prevent their further marginalization through reserve seats,” she said.
Salman Abid, Ideas director, recommended that the ratio of women’s representation be set at a basic minimum of at least 33% at all LG tiers. He demanded that reserved seats for youth be restored. According to him, appropriate quota for workers/peasants should also be ensured in the neighborhood councils through reserve seats in purview of Article 32 of the Constitution.
Lawyer Mudassar Farooq said that democracy was more likely to develop when all segments of a society are free to participate and influence political outcomes without suffering bias or reprisal.
“Participation of a diverse citizenry in public and private life is a fundamental aspect of a peaceful and just society. But in many countries, like Pakistan, large portions of the populations are excluded from politics based on their ethnicity, religion, gender, age and disability,” he said.
The empowerment of marginalized groups is the most recent approach in inclusive governance and participatory democracy, said Ms Khaliq.She said that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment the subject of Local government was devolved to provinces under Article 140-A, which asks the provinces to establish a local government system based on the elected representatives.
As a result, the provincial governments developed their respective LG laws in 2013 but kept hesitating (except Balochistan) to hold LG elections till 2015, when the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered them to fulfill their constitutional compliance and install local governance systems.
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2020