Pakistan Elects First Female Speaker of Parliament

New crop of Pak. lawmakers are richer, flashier and more secular

Islamabad: Gold-trimmed SUVs idle outside the parliament. Among new female lawmakers, Muslim veils are out and Gucci bags are in.

Civilian rule has returned to Pakistan, and its politicians have come back with bling.

Last month’s elections ushered into parliament a new crop of business leaders and wealthy elites opposed to U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf’s one-man rule.

The new body is headed by followers of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, secularists who have vowed to fight Islamic extremism.

Many are also veterans of a series of civilian governments that nearly bankrupted the country in the 1990s.

Eight years after Musharraf took over in a military coup, they’re back in power, accessories and all.

“It’s their cars, their fashion. They have all the latest models,” said Sana Asad, a Pakistani journalist covering parliament. “They’re richer and more secular.”

“Perhaps it’s because they’re connected to the previous administrations, the wealthy elites,” she said, sunning herself outside parliament’s housing complex Wednesday.

Parliament’s parking lot was crowded with new sports utility vehicles festooned with flashy tire rims and hood ornaments. Women in bright colors clogged past in heels and huge sunglasses. Bodyguards fanned out.

The Feb. 18 elections saw a hardline coalition of religious groups lose control of the country’s northwest along the Afghan border. Also, many conservative-minded allies of Musharraf lost their seats.

In the last parliament, about a dozen female lawmakers from the religious alliance wore body-shrouding black veils that concealed everything except their eyes.

But as parliament elected its first female speaker Wednesday, just a single lawmaker, one of 74 women in the 342-seat house, covered her face with a light beige wrap. Others wore traditional flowing gowns, some with bare heads and others with their hair only partially covered by loose scarves.

The National Assembly elected its first woman speaker on Wednesday, a member of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which won elections last month.

Fehmida Mirza, 51, a medical doctor from a political family from Sindh province, easily defeated a candidate from the main party that backs President Pervez Musharraf by 249 votes to 70, said outgoing speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain.

“It’s a tremendous thing and something Pakistan can be proud of,” said Nasim Zehra, a Pakistani analyst and fellow at Harvard University’s Asia Center.

“There’s a different texture in politics now. The orientation of this parliament is different, with a different kind of people with different backgrounds,” she said.

On Wednesday, Khaled Mahmood Javed sat behind the tinted windows of a shiny sedan flying the flag of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party.

His brother, Rai Ghulam Murtaza, is an incoming lawmaker who first served under Bhutto in the 1980s.

“A lot of them are businessmen, and none are poor. They’re big men, important men, and they’re less religious, too,” Javed said of the new breed of legislators.

Millions still live in poverty in the Islamic nation despite annual economic growth of about 7 percent for the past five years. Much of it was due to cash being sent home by Pakistani expatriates. Murtaza was one of them, his brother said.

“My brother lived abroad for the past 15 years. He’s a dual citizen of Canada,” Javed said proudly.

Many of Pakistan’s top politicians are feudal landlords. Others amassed fortunes in Pakistan’s booming banking and telecom sectors while they sat out politics under Musharraf.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a Bhutto loyalist and contender for prime minister, acknowledged that the lawmakers’ ostentatious wealth could raise doubts about their commitment to solving the problems of ordinary Pakistanis.

“Austerity should be exercised, given the economic compulsions that we have,” Qureshi told Dawn News television Tuesday. He said the country faced “huge challenges,” with high inflation and power shortages.

Economic hardships persist for most Pakistanis. The country has yet to fully overcome a severe shortage of wheat flour, a staple here, and fuel prices have spiked sharply in recent weeks.

Outside parliament Wednesday, policemen sat in clusters under small pine trees, watching new lawmakers parade past multicolored banners lining the drive up to the legislature’s marble pillars.

“Rich candidates always do better. They have more connections,” said one of the officers, lazily picking at wild dandelions. A policemen earns just over $100 USD a month.

“Islam doesn’t allow women to unveil themselves, but the atmosphere in Pakistan is changing day by day. You can see it in the fashion here,” he said, requesting anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to media.

“It’s a bit of a charade, but it’s also a big sign of democracy and hope,” he said.

//the-hindu/ + /reuters//

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Posted in Elections, Pakistan, Politics
2 comments on “Pakistan Elects First Female Speaker of Parliament
  1. Dear Sir/Madam,
    Pakistani Women at crossroads?

    Everyone has the right to live with, liberty and security of the person. Woman is entitled to equal rights as citizen of Pakistan and live in a family, which is the natural and fundamental unit of society and is entitled to be protected by society and state. The women power in Pakistan is nearly 52% of the population, but while considering the status of ‘women’ in Pakistan, our women still look like to be living in the dark ages. Their right for acquiring education and economic freedom is not incourage; it is a matter of deep distress that being Muslims we have completely forgotten the status of women given by Islam, as per teaching of our beloved prophet, Mohammad (P.B.U.H) that women are dignified, respected and secure in Islam than in other faith. Women are more protected by Islam then by the faith and society which preaches monogamy. Islam was the first religion to recognize the equality of sexes and granted women all rights, 1400 years ago, in those early days of Islam.

    But since the creation of Pakistan the rights of women were ignored just as similarly as the rights of Pakistani to rule this country and decide the fate of their own future. After the independence of Pakistan the socio-political system does not change, little or no reform were carried out and therefore the status quo of the society remain the same as it was before. The feudal remain in power as they were before, under the rule of British Empire and even before them.

    The survival of the feudal system remains in brutality, ignorance, illiteracy and poverty’s it is the system to be blame for humiliation, exploitation and cruelty with women’s. The right of women cannot be protected till we provide ample opportunity to women for uplift, such as education with skill development and an opportunity to utilize that kill to enhance economic activities such as their participation in the production and services in the country.

    We must feel proud in developing and implementing our values and stop looking at the west as passage/light for women’s right, women is most exploited in the west, in the name of democracy and equal rights, the freedom allowed in the west is not for the protection of women from exploitation and maintain the dignity. Even in these modern world women is being humiliated in socio-economic and cultural front by the dominant man power. Everybody is talking about the women’s right with special reference to job, education and equal opportunity in the society with dignity and respect. But, Women’s are being exploited even since the commencement of modern society. At work place in the factory, in search of job and better chances to avail for better income and prosperous life, even in the offices women are exploited by the influential people, one way or the other.

    The most exploited women’s are from working class due to economic problems, middle class in order to maintain fake standard of living and the upper class for the sake of enjoyment of life and for getting rid off frustration in their social domestic life.
    It is true that women in Pakistan have never been disassociated with the struggle for democracy. However, the women’s gained more maturity in its understanding of national issues because of this interaction and participation in the movement for democracy, women have been engaged in the debate on insecurity and instability and its links to critical domestic condition.
    Pakistan is an Islamic state, where people, not only take pride in strictly adhering to the Islamic values but are ready to sacrifice their loved belongings for the glory and sanctity of Islam. Islam has accorded a highly respected social position to women. Islam acknowledges the rights and privileges of the women in society. Likewise, Islam does not impose any restrictions that may hamper the social growth and development of the woman within the framework of Islamic society. A woman is equally important member of society. The woman plays a vital role in building the society on healthier and stronger foundations.

    The women in Pakistan have been constantly complaining of having being isolated from the mainstream of society. Women feel disillusioned on being maltreated by the male-oriented set up in Pakistan. They strongly claim that if they are given a chance, they can contribute more positively towards the development of all social aspects. Pakistani women are at crossroad and need a serious concentration on the route cause of exploitation of women’s right; the reason, the route cause is the prevailing system in the country which is needed to be changed. The current democracy and the representation of women within the assembly does not represent common Pakistani women, they are part and partial of rich and feudal families.
    Therefore, Islamic Democratic Party has decided to give back dignity and respect to the women, but that dignity and respect cannot be achieved without the change of socio-political system in the country. However, to give back honor and dignity to the women, we are suggesting to the women of Pakistan;

    • Education and Technical knowledge to be provided to every capable woman in separate and safe environment.
    • After enhancement of knowledge and skill, provide safe and separate environment for women to work and join national production force.
    • A guarantee for job opportunity should be provided to every woman wanted to work in safe and separate environment.
    • When, 52% women power will join production and services sector, national gross production /services will increase and so the increase in revenue.
    • Working women will earn for the family and bring happiness to the family and so the self satisfaction, dignity and respect within the family will increase.
    • A separate working environment reduces the objection from the male member of the family.
    • An educated mother can train new generation in better way and be a supporting partner in family as and when needed.
    • Being earning member of the family, self confidence of women will enhance and so the intrinsic skill will further developed.
    • The medical facilities and insurance coverage should be provided to every working woman.

    • Equal participation in political wing for women in the political parties.

    • Only the society base on tolerance, equality and justice can be the real guarantee for the prosperous and strong Pakistan.

    Therefore, we, invite the women from all walks of life to come forward and join the rank and file of Islamic Democratic Party and take the rain for the change of socio-political in their hands to acquire peace and progress for better life with women’s dignity, respect and equal opportunity in Pakistan.

    Ilyas khan Baloch
    Organizer, Islamic Democratic Party.

  2. Can I ask you who does your site design or is it a template?We like reading people’s sites; however will only spend a lot of time on the sites that are valuable.

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