Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
National consultation on Constitutional and electoral reforms for strengthening gender equality and social inclusion under Jazba programme, Islamabad


National consultation on Constitutional and electoral reforms for strengthening gender equality and social inclusion under Jazba programme

Aurat Foundation (AF) in collaboration with South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-Pk) organized a broad based consultation in Islamabad today, including political party reps, Sen. Taj Haider (PPP) and Ms. Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, PML-N, Parliamentary Secretary on Law & Justice. Other parties were invited too. Tariq Malik, NADRA Chairperson participated.  The Election Commission of Pakistan was invited. Paul Godbout, Counsellor Political, Canadian High Commission (CHC) attended, along with colleagues.

The consultation brought together a diverse and inclusive group, including civil society organizations, women political workers, party reps, activists, transgenders, PWDs, academia and media.

Naeem Mirza, Executive Director, AF and Irfan Mufti, SAP-Pk gave introductory remarks and the meeting objectives, to strengthen gender equality women’s political participation and ensure diversity. Mirza asserted that it is up to the political parties to ensure that the Parliament of Pakistan remains a sovereign entity and to focus on women in politics.

Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah presented key recommendations on constitutional and electoral reforms, including: extension of women’s reserved seats provision for the next 30 years, with a Parliamentary review every 10 years; increasing reserved seats from 17% to 33% in all legislatures and local government tiers; including reservations for transgenders (5%), PWDs  (10%), peasants (5%), workers (5%) and 33% women within reserved seats for religious Minorities; increased quantum of political party tickets for women contesting on general seats from 5% to 15% across the board; tickets to be awarded on ‘winnable’ and ‘electable’ seats; mainstreaming “Women’s Wings” outside the “zanana dabba”; increasing women’s political party membership at senior policymaking positions; training women legislators; and women to be appointed Chairs of 33% Standing Committees.

She listed gave a long list of items comprising ECP responsibilities: reducing fees and security deposit for women candidates; political parties to fund 50% of women’s election campaign expenses; ECP to urgently update electoral rolls; work with NADRA to ensure CNICs for all women above 18 with automatic voter registration; ensure privacy and security at women’s polling stations; recruitment, training and promotion of women staff at all tiers of ECP, including POs, DROs, and ROs; zero tolerance for illegal agreements for exclusion of women contestants or voters.

Harris Khalique of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) endorsed all the proposed reforms, saying we should not back down on these demands; activists should continue the movement for democracy and political rights.

Sen. Taj Haider, PPP, commended and endorsed all the proposed reforms and pledged to bring them to the PPP leadership and also to the PDM coalition, currently working on Electoral Law reform, which would be easier to achieve than Constitutional Amendment, requiring two-thirds majority vote.

Tariq Malik, Chairperson NADRA presented a list of all progressive measures he has initiated at NADRA for gender equality, TGIs and social inclusion; NADRA issues 125,000 CNICs daily, of which 56% are for women; the gender gap has decreased from 14.70% to 8.9% within one year.

The Chief Guest, Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, Parliamentary Secretary for Law & Justice commended this initiative, despite the polarized political environment. She pledged to continue working for women and children’s rights and bringing more marginalized women into the political process and promised to help include the proposed reforms in the draft Bill.

Paul Godbout (CHC) spoke the importance Canada places on women’s political participation and social inclusion. He was glad to see so much diversity in today’s gathering; local problems need local solutions to come from Pakistani civil society; programmes like JAZBA are of immense importance, bringing visible changes in gender equality.

Nadeem Kashish and Julie Khan spoke on TGI issues, while Imran and Zulqarnain Asghar highlighted PWDs’ problems.

In conclusion, Naeem Mirza thanked all participants and announced the formation of a working group to present the proposed reforms to the Law Ministry and Parliamentary Standing Committees.