Islamabad—Speakers at a national conference here on Monday called for maximum participation of women, minorities and the youth in the political process for strengthening democracy and improving the standards of the society.
They were speaking at the curtain-raiser of two-day conference on “Political Participation of Women, Minorities and Youth”, organised by the Democracy Reporting International (DRI) in collaboration with Women Parliamentary Caucus of Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Youth Parliamentary Caucus.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Muhammad Yousuf said that Pakistan’s Constitution requires equal rights for the religious minorities. “We have 10 MNAs and four Senators from religious minorities and this number can increase if they contest on general seats,” he said. However, we still have to work towards improving protection for rights of women and minorities in light of the Constitution and international ratified by Pakistan.
Aga Siraj Durrani, Speaker Sindh Assembly, while lauding efforts of DRI said that such forums are crucial to the reform process and democratic stability in the country. He said that his party will consider those recommendations which will come out from this forum. He urged the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral reforms to immediately enact reforms for improving political participation of women and minorities before the next general elections. Such reforms will also provide an impetus to the provinces to enact similar reforms at the provincial levels, he added.
Sardar Mustafa Khan, Minister for Local Government Balochistan, said that the reforms adopted by the provinces and the federal government could only move ahead in the right direction if democracy is not derailed.
The designate British High Commissioner to Pakistan Mr Thomas Drew CMG said that he had been in the country earlier too but added, “Now I see a more inclusive democracy in Pakistan than it was ten years ago and the recent weeks have been a witness to it.” He referred to the winning of Oscar by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, active participation of the Pakistani society on International Women’s day and enactment of the Women Protection Bill by Punjab Assembly etc.
Mr Drew said that Pakistan was passing through an important phase in terms of democracy and the reform process was a welcoming sign. These are all encouraging for the democratic stability in the country and we are always supportive for democracy in the Pakistan, he said and added that the 2018 elections will be important for the inclusion of women, minority and the youth.
Tim Bittiger, Director Programmes DRI, who came from Berlin to attend the conference, said that Pakistan has been undergoing an important democratic change. He said that European Union granted Pakistan the GSP plus which gives it preferential access to EU markets; however it also requires compliance with 27 international treaties – so Pakistan has many reasons to move forward with the reforms.
Hassan Nasir Mirbahar, Team Leader DRI Pakistan, said: “There have been efforts to bring reforms for protection of the rights of women and minorities but the agenda of the reform remains unfinished.” He said that the first parliamentary committee formed in the history of Pakistan was the ‘Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Committee’ headed by Qauid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Nasreen Azhar of HRCP, Neelum Khan Torru, Chairperson of Provincial Commission on Status of Women, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Farzana Bari eminent human and women rights activists also spoke on the occasion.