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Women break male stranglehold over Pakistan politics

Wednesday, October 06, 2010 12:48:38 PM, Awais Saleem, IANS

Islamabad: Women are now making a mark in Pakistan's male-dominated political arena as seats have been reserved for them and candidates have to hold a graduation degree to contest polls.

There is reservation for women in the federal parliament as well as 33 percent quota for women in all legislative assemblies.

The firebrand Pakistan Muslim League(Q) members, Kashmala Tariq and Marvi Memon, Jamaate Islami's burqa-clad Sameea Raheel Qazi, Pakistan Peoples Party's very vocal Fozia Wahab and Sherry Rehman are some of the active lawmakers who have joined the assembly on these reserved seats.

"This trend was certainly encouraging because no male could realise the issues of females or raise their voices properly earlier," said Kashmala during a media interaction.

"I don't agree with the argument that these members are inferior because they have not contested open elections," she said, adding that they should be judged on the basis of their performance.

The most significant change in traditional mindset due to the imposition of the condition that a candidate has to be a graduate to be able to contest elections.

Most of the seasoned politicians had to take a back seat and allow their wives, daughters and sisters who were graduates to contest polls and address large election rallies. The women in these political families were found to be more educated than their male counterparts.

Some of these women include Samina Ghurki, wife of PPP's central executive committee member Khalid Ghurki, who is now serving as federal minister for social welfare.

Hina Rabbani Khar, who is serving as the first female minister for finance, comes from a powerful political family in South Punjab as her father Noor Rabbani Khar was unable to contest elections because he wasn't a graduate.

The Supreme Court last year waived off the condition of being a graduate to contest the polls. As the 2008 general elections had been held prior to that, so the women are now part of the house till 2013.

"It has to be seen how many of them now return in the next general elections" since the Bachelor of Arts degree condition has been waived off, political analyst Hasan Saeed told IANS.

There has been no major resistance from the families or parties in fielding women. But, there have been some dissenting voices within the political parties who feel that no reserved quota should be there and the women should compete in general elections to join parliament.

Politicians have been fielding their relatives in the elections.

Aamir Yar Waran, who had to resign for allegedly having a fake degree, fielded his wife Khadija Waran in the by-elections and she won the seat easily. Saira Tarar, daughter-in-law of former president Rafiq Tarar, was elected on a PML-N ticket from a Hafizabad town.

"We are happy to be in this position because we can deliver if our family wants us to," said Samina Ghurki, adding that she had "no qualms about returning to the household chores and taking care of kids at a later stage".

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at






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