KARACHI: Stressing the need for continued work on the rights of women, youth, and minorities, Syeda Shehla Raza, Deputy Speaker of the Sindh Assembly and Head of the Sindh Women Parliamentary Caucus (SWPC), on Tuesday invited all political parties to use the SWPC platform that provides a mutual platform to raise voice for rights of women, youth and minorities.
Shehla said this while speaking at the consultative gorum, “Realising Civil and Political Rights of Women, Minorities and Youth,” jointly organised by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and the Sindh Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. Explaining the need for the forum, Hassan Nasir Mirbahar, Team Leader for DRI’s project, “Democratic Stability Through Responsive Elected Institutions,” underscored that the consolidation of democracy requires the realisation of the rights of all citizens. For this purpose, parliamentarians and civil society need to work together and the consultative forum provides one such opportunity, he said.
Speaking at the forum, Dr Sono Mal Khangarani, a Dalit rights activist, said that 90% of the Dalit community is highly underrepresented in the political arena. He highlighted the need to expand the definition of minorities and includes groups such as Dalits, who are often ignored. Krishan Sharma, Chairman of REAT Network, stressed the need for the implementation of international human rights treaties, including the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, and to guarantee the effective political participation of all citizens.
Amar Sindhu, a prominent women’s rights activist, said that power relations are controlled and sustained by politics and therefore the political empowerment of women is essential to the realisation of gender equality. Anis Haroon stressed the need to promptly form the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women as per the law which was passed earlier this year. Parliamentarians noted that women members have been very active in fulfilling their roles within the parliament and this was an indicator of their ability to be effective change agents in the political sphere.
Both parliamentarians and civil society lamented that Pakistan seems to show a regressive trend in terms of the political participation of women and minorities; in the past, both groups had more access to public and political space. Members participating in the consultative forum recognised that the promotion and protection of civil and political rights of women, minorities, and youth as enshrined in the constitution and as per Pakistan’s international commitments is essential for democratic progress in the country. They said there is the need to increase transparency in the nomination criteria for reserved seats of women and minorities. The forum also demanded a review of the current system for the allocation of reserved seats for women and minorities and advocated for these seats to be directly elected for more effective political participation of the both groups.
Sumeta Afzal (MQM), Arif Masih (MQM), Khurram Sher Zama (PTI), Dr. Seema Zia (PTI), Heer Soho (MQM), and Jibran Nasir, a human rights activist, and others also spoke at the forum. The forum was attended by a large number of participants, including members of the Sindh Assembly, the Sindh Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, members of political parties, and civil society.