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Senate criticises bar on women from voting in coming GB polls

Senate criticises bar on women from voting in coming GB polls

ISLAMABAD: The Senate criticised on Thursday a decision made by a jirga in Diamer district to bar women from casting vote in elections for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly to be held next month.

Nasrin Jalil of the MQM raised the issue. Quoting media reports, she said that candidates from PML-N, PPP, the PTI and JUI-F had also attended the jirga. She regretted that the candidates of political parties which made tall claims about democracy had endorsed the undemocratic decision.

Saeed Ghani of PPP informed the house that his party had decided to withdraw the ticket it had awarded to its candidate after taking notice of his becoming part of the undemocratic exercise.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq termed the development alarming and said a few individuals could not take such a decision. He assured the house that he would ask the governor and the acting chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan to take serious notice of matter.

He said the GB election commission would be asked to take action against those who had taken an unconstitutional decision.

Chairman Raza Rabbani said disenfranchising women was certainly an unconstitutional and illegal act and asked Mr Haq to inform the house about his discussions with relevant authorities on Friday.

Attaur Rehman of the JUI-F said disenfranchisement of women was neither his party’s policy nor it wanted it, but it would be inappropriate to force women to vote.

“There are women in certain parts of the country who remain confined to their houses. Will you use police to make them vote?”

There were a number of women who had not even obtained the national identity card, he added.

Earlier, the house witnessed the first-ever discussion on the annual report on the observance and implementation of principles of policy in relation to the affairs of federation.

The report for 2011-12 had been laid before the house on Aug 12, 2014, and a motion for discussion on it had been moved by the minister in charge of cabinet secretariat on May 6 this year.

Taking part in the debate, Farhatullah Babar of PPP said the principles enshrined in Articles 29 to 40 of the constitution that served as the compass of national life envisaged Pakistan to be a welfare driven state, but regretted that over the past six decades the country had drifted towards a security driven state.

“In a deliberately crafted narrative woven around national security the state today is guided only by considerations of security rather than welfare of people.

“Whether it is the decision about allocation of national resources, or the missing persons, or reforms in Fata or whether the debate that functioning of security agencies should be rooted in legislation instead of executive order the guiding compass is whether it enhanced a peculiar concept of security or promoted human rights and public well-being.

“Even in matters of economic activities involving construction and transportation the field is tilted towards security institutions instead of the private sector that should be the engine of growth.”

He said when a political government attempted to restructure issues around national security its efforts were thwarted.

Mr Babar said that in 1999 then prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s far-reaching regional peace initiative by inviting his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee was subverted through the Kargil misadventure. The nation was still reeling from its consequences as it transformed the Kashmir issue from that of self-determination to cross-border terrorism.

Similarly, he said, a scheduled meeting of the present cabinet sometime back in which trade with India was to be formally given a go-ahead was cancelled at the last minute. Subsequently, the Punjab chief minister in an interview with a foreign newspaper only said that security establishments of the two countries were a stumbling block in the way of trade.

“We must revisit the theories of national security along with all stakeholders and make a realistic assessment of the threat perception,” he said.

Muzaffar Hussain Shah of PML-N said the government should take steps to provide security to the minorities. “The government should take coercive measures, if necessary, to ensure that the religious minorities are safeguarded.”

Mr Shah urged the government to allocate at least four per cent of the GDP for education, besides giving priority to the health sector. He said economic development should take place on an equitable basis to ensure there was no sense of deprivation among smaller provinces.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed of PML-Q called for advancing the civil-military harmony developed after the Peshawar’s Army Public School tragedy.

He pointed out that there were just two paragraphs in the annual report about counter-terrorism and called for continuing with counter-terrorism efforts.

He stressed the need for steps to protect non-Muslim Pakistanis, provision of inexpensive and expeditious justice and strengthening the provinces.

The Senate will resume the discussion on Friday.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015

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