NA body agrees to help enhance women’s direct representation

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs on Tuesday extended full support to enhancing women’s prospects of directly contesting elections to the lower house of parliament in the future.
Though, currently a quota exists for women to reach the parliament, the fairer sex should be brought into the mainstream politics by giving them opportunities to contest direct elections, Dr Nafisa Shah, a member from the Pakistan People’s Party, (PPP), said while speaking during a committee meeting with Mian Abdul Manan in the chair. 
Under the current mechanism, heads of political parties are empowered to nominate women and also members from religious minorities to become members of the assemblies. 
The chairman said that the speaker had asked him to discuss Dr Shah’s bill relating to women’s enhanced participation in the parliament, which was tabled during the previous government’s tenure.
Dr Shah said that she had tabled the bill to avert the eventuality in case the current quota was somehow abolished though for the time being. The bill suggests some amendments to the Political Parties Order, 2002, to ensure women’s direct participation in the election. 
In the United Kingdom, she said, the Labour Party gives every third seat to women candidates but the Conservative Party could not follow this practice. Through this way, she added, a large number of women were directly elected to the parliament from the platform of Labour Party.
She said that before tabling this bill, she consulted all political parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), and that they supported this law. The committee assured Dr Shah that it would support the bill once it comes on its agenda. A similar piece of legislation for religious minorities was also urged during the meeting.
A representative of United Nations (UN) told the committee that the UN had arranged several consultative meetings regarding women’s participation in election process both as candidates and voters. She urged the committee to participate in the upcoming consultative meeting on May 7. The committee accepted the invitation.
Meanwhile, Election Commission of Pakistan Additional Secretary Syed Sher Afgan informed the committee that holding local government (LG) elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province through the biometric system and installing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) seemed very difficult because introduction of such system/machines required huge investment for its installation as well as time to test its accuracy and efficacy. 
The chair observed that there were government of different political parties in different provinces and asked the ECP as to why it was considering a proposal floated by a single party, particularly when the literacy rate was low, women were barred from casting votes and the law and order situation was also not good in that province. Mannan said that introduction of the EVM in one province would be discriminatopn with other three provinces. 
The chairman asked the ECP not to take any decision on the “desire” of a political party and instead take all political parties on board.
Dr Nafisa Shah asked the ECP officials to share their vision regarding commissioning this technology in future so as to deliver fair results. The ECP secretary said that the commission had a plan to introduce this technology in 2018 elections but that it was not possible to employ it immediately. 
For the upcoming LG elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said, EVMs could be installed in a small tehsil as a pilot project in order to test their efficacy.
The committee also supported enhancing conveyance allowance of parliamentarians. Currently, the allowance is calculated at the rate of Rs 10 per kilometre which was set in 2012 and is also admissible to top bureaucrats.
State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab asked the committee to forward its recommendations and that the issue would be taken up accordingly even if it required amending some rules.

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