Original Articles

Ignoring PPP women in political analysis

One has to appreciate Express Tribune for allowing a number of new writers with a platform on their Opinion pages. Other well established newspapers like Dawn, The News and The Nation have their Op-Ed pages dominated by a select type of writers who have literally “leased”  space in these newspapers, irrespective of their angling, bias or tilt. It is probably because of this reason, Express Tribune has quickly become a very popular newspaper in the country with a very interactive platform on their website.

Unfortunately, every now and then an article appears on ET’s Opinion pages which is grossly inaccurate, bordering on bias. Ms. Tazeen Javed is a respected blogger in the Pakistani social media space. Her article titled “Women and political parties” has been published on 25th February, 2012. The article’s premise is that “If political parties are scrutinised, most female politicians are either siblings or children of the party heads or are married into the political families. There are hardly any role models, if any, of women political workers who assumed a leadership position after serving their parties over a number of years. Political ascendency on meritorious grounds is a novel phenomenon in Pakistan but more so in the case of women political workers.” She has cited MQM’s Nasreen Jalil and ANP’s Bushra Gohar as women holding important political positions.

Ms. Javed has completely ignored the PPP in her analysis it seems. When the Women’s reserve seats were established after 2002 elections, a term of “Biwi-Bahu-Beti Brigade” was coined. It was because the PML-Q , PML-N and MMA brought in majority of relatives to the reserved seats. PPP was also criticized but without reason.  PPP was the only party whose women representatives in the legislature didn’t belong to the “Biwi-Bahu-Beti Brigade”.

Even right now, Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Sherry Rehman, Fauzia Wahab, Mehreen Bhutto, Rukhsana Bangash, Fouzia Habib, Mehrunnisa Afridi, Farhat Khan, Belum Hasnain, Fakhrunnisa Khokhar, Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry, Shakeela Sheikh Rasheed, Shagufta Jumani and numerous in the Sindh Assembly as well as Punjab Assembly are not those who are in the Assemblies because of their relations. These women are their because they have been part and parcel of the party in one form or the other for many years now.

These women do not belong to the "Biwi-Bahu-Beti Brigade" and are committed workers

On the other hand, those directly elected on general seats can be considered those who are related to someone important in their electorate, but that is because of the dynamics of local politics than anything else!

Women and political parties

By Tazeen Javed

Pakistan is a strange country. While on the one hand it has had thefirst female prime minister of the Muslim world and has the maximum percentage of women in its legislative assemblies in the region; on the other hand, politics has not been used as a tool of empowerment for women at the grass roots.

It is a curious paradox. The reasons can be as varied as politics being a classist business in the country to a general lack of women’s access to public spaces. If political parties are scrutinised, most female politicians are either siblings or children of the party heads or are married into the political families. There are hardly any role models, if any, of women political workers who assumed a leadership position after serving their parties over a number of years. Political ascendency on meritorious grounds is a novel phenomenon in Pakistan but more so in the case of women political workers.

With the exception of Bushra Gohar and now Nasreen Jalil, no other party, barring the ANP and the MQM, has women holding pivotal positions in their parties and they, too, need to do a lot more. For example, the MQM’s Rabita Committee has a disproportionate number of men. Further, certain regressive elements in the ANP still bar women from exercising their right to vote — as late as November 2011, when all the eight contestants of the constituency KP-61, Kohistan decided not to allow women to cast their votes.

The importance of being out and about in politics is obvious to anyone with a passing interest in it. The women’s rally staged by the MQM last weekend showed us that politics is far too important a business to be left to men alone.

Pakistan is a country where women are losing ground in public spaces and confining themselves to fit to certain patriarchal norms and boundaries set down for them. In that context, the rally and its message that a strong Pakistan is dependent on independent women was a timely reminder that women need to reclaim the spaces that have receded.

The MQM may have wanted to show the world that Karachi is still their home and other political upstarts have a long way to go before they lay any claims to the city but what also comes across from this is that women as voters and citizenry are important and must be viewed as such by other political powers. The large numbers that turned up also showed us that women should be taken seriously and that many of them want to engage in the political process.

It is about time that political parties realise that women are a political constituency and their concerns need to be addressed and fought for, not only in parliament but also in the party ranks. This is election year, so should we not demand all parties to include issues important to women in their election manifestos and genuinely try to bridge the gap that exists?

In politics, the importance of constituency cannot be overstated. The MQM rally brought to the fore the fact that the constituency of women across ethnic, racial, tribal and class exists and needs to be catered to by all political parties.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.

About the author

Dr Uzma Ali

13 Comments

Click here to post a comment
  • Take Kamran Shafi, Saroop Ijaz and perhaps one or two more out, Express Tribune is nothing more than the typical fake civil society bullshit, apolitical Imran Khan – Iftikhar Chaudhry lovers e.g., Tammy Haq (former Imran Khan’s cnadidate), Omar Quraishi (his mother is still in PML-Q?), Tazeen Javed (who reads her blogs anyway?), Raza Rumi (his Pak Tea House has the highest ratio of pro-PTI posts on any Pakistani blog), and several others.

  • Pls dont ridicule a newspaper like ET. They are much better than the crappy the news and becoming crappy dawn. Yes there will be mindless pieces like these which should be looked as a process of improvement than anything else.
    The article by tazeen javed is quite biased and devoid of facts

  • This is surprising to read that ppp has not rewarded women. You see most women in politics having their roots with the ppp or are those promoted by military walas. Names like atiya inayatollah, kashmala cOme to mind

  • Express Tribune is the Bible of Pakistan’s Burger Group aka Mummy-Daddy Mafia. It is filled with high society bimbos who have degrees from elite British and American universities, but have no idea how a typical middle class or lower middle class Pakistani thinks. Most of the male writers for ET belong to this silly group.
    I think the best articles are found in Daily Times.

  • looks like the writer have not read literature written against appointment of Shagufta Jumani as minister of religious affair .

  • A tale of lahore’s political struggle is incomplete without mentioning the name of brave poltical activist Abida Malik,Sajjda Mir,Shahida Jabeen,Saghira Islam.

  • A sad article in ET! Other prominent PPP women members who were or are currently sitting in assemblies include:

    Naheed Khan -ex member 2002-07
    Shehla Raza
    Surayya Jatoi
    Shazia Marri
    Najma Saeed Chawla
    Shama Mithani
    Tauqeer Fatma Bhutto
    Amna Buttar
    Faiza Malik
    Fauzia Behram
    Sajida Mir
    and many more.

    Even in the current senate, Almas Parveen is a representative, an ordinary worker from Lyari.

    PPP is made to look like one that sacrifices its principles, but always it is contrary to the facts!

  • what about Waheeda Shah??? I guess she is the real face of PPP women leadership which goes on to show how to win elections. Bloody shameful.

  • Could any one pl provide me conact number, e mail of Mrs Farkhanda Bukhari?

    ahsan shah birmingham

  • Men and women in politics tend to belong to privileged families. In particular, women’s political participation depends largely on their class background. For example, Fouzia Habib is the daughter of the late PPP MNA, Habib Khan who was a retired army officer as well as zamindaar. Similarly, Sherry Rehman, Nasreen Jalil and Bushra Gohar belong to influential upper class families. Access to political participation in Pakistan requires an elite family background and a great deal of money. The few ordinary women who are able to participate in politics are exceptions, not the norm. Therefore, we cannot base our observations on a couple exceptions.