Govt accused of depriving 12m women of right to vote

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers in the Upper House of parliament on Monday alleged that the government had deprived around 12 million women across country of their right to vote in the upcoming general elections.

During discussion on a motion presented by PTI’s Mohsin Aziz regarding the non-issuance of CNICs to a large number of women in the country, resulting in non-registration of their names in the voter lists, the legislators came down hard on the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) over its failure to issue CNICs to millions of women above the age of 18.

Aziz also questioned the silence of women rights activists over the issue. He suggested that the government initiate a campaign on war footing for issue of CNICs to the women.

PPP’s Senator Sehar Kamran was of the view that in a true democratic setup, women’s participation in the electoral process was mandatory. Dr Jamaldini said that the issue existed only in the far flung areas of Balochistan, FATA, and KP. Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel held NADRA responsible for the situation. He claimed that foreigners were issued CNICs without any hindrance but getting CNICs had been made very difficult for Pakhtuns and the tribal people.

Speaking on the occasion, PML-N’s Senator Aysha Raza Farooq said that according to a survey, 24% women didn’t possess CNICs. She suggested that NADRA should initiate a campaign in this regard at the district level.

State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry said that the government had taken appropriate measures for issuing CNICs to the women. He said 71 mobile registration vans of NADRA were already engaged in registration of women exclusively, adding that 78 new vans would be inducted for the purpose very soon. He said Fridays have already been reserved for women registration and now steps were being taken to add Saturdays as well to the schedule. He said that in some backward areas, women registration was a big problem, adding that ulema can play a very constructive role in this regard.

Through another motion, PTI’s Azam Swati raised the issue of vote of right to the overseas Pakistanis and claimed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had failed to perform its due role on the matter. However, Law Minister Bashir Virk said that electronic machines installed in banks are hacked and same might be the case with the electronic voting machines. He said there were chances of misuse of electronic machines for voting if installed.

State Minister for Finance Rana Afzal said no alarming situation existed in the country regarding domestic borrowing. Responding to a motion sponsored by PPP’s Senator Sherry Rehman on increase in domestic debt, the minister said there is a mechanism on debt management that limits domestic debt to a certain percentage of the GDP. He said the domestic debt was higher in 2013 when the incumbent government came into power. He said Pakistan needed some time to reach at an ideal position vis-à-vis economy. The Upper House passed four resolutions and deferred another one on the request of minister for Parliamentary Affairs. BNP-M lawmaker Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini moved a resolution urging the government to make a policy for provision of jammers for private vehicles of high profile figures like members of the National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies, heads of political parties and former chief ministers and governors owing to the security reasons. The House unanimously passed the resolution as it was not opposed by the government. Another resolution sponsored by PkMAP senators Usman Khan Kakar, Azam Khan Musakhel and Gul Bashra regarding allocation of 2 to 5 percent amount of the CPEC funds for the less developed areas to ensure social development there was also passed. PPP’s Senator Sehar Kamran moved a resolution urging the government to take necessary steps to introduce organic farming technologies in the agricultural sector which are cost effective and sustainable both for productivity and soil fertility. It was also passed by the House.

The House passed another resolution moved by MQM’s Senator Col (r) Tahir Mashhadi regarding provisions of jobs in the public sector on the basis of merit only. A resolution sponsored by Senator Azam Khan Swati was deferred on ministerial request which demanded that provision of development funds to parliamentarians should be stopped immediately as the same was against the spirit of good governance and democratic norms.

Published in Daily Times, March 6th 2018.