March Issue 2010
Interview: Sameea Qazi
As part of Newsline‘s cover story “One Step Forward” on women parliamentarians and their effect on the status of women in Pakistan, we interviewed five female MNAs to find out what progress has been made in gender rights.
“How can we be against pro-women legislation?”
– Sameea Qazi
Q: Which government, in your view, has been the most woman-friendly in terms of gender-sensitive policies?
A: Unfortunately, I can’t find any government that has succeeded in giving the necessary stature and basic rights to deprived women. Since these governments were administrated by civilian and military dictators, they had been denying essential rights to both genders.
Q: It is generally believed that the increase in the number of women parliamentarians is mere tokenism. Is that so?
A: Pervez Musharraf’s enlightened moderation was just a slogan. The increase in women’s participation in legislative bodies was just a cosmetic excercise to build a soft image of his regime.
Q: Parliamentarians are expected to vote along party lines. If your party’s vote conflicts with your interests as a woman, what would be your response?
A: Freedom of speech and sustainability of dialogue are the hallmarks of the Jamaat’s realm. If a difference of opinion arises, it is dealt with proficiently. The members work hard and don’t give up until they have convinced their colleagues through logical reasoning.
Q: Is the women parliamentary caucus set up in the present assembly making an impact? If yes, in what way?
A: We believe in women’s caucuses but our political system is not strong enough to fulfill its requirements. However, I am proud to be the first secretary general of the first women’s caucus, the All Parties Political Forum, in Balochistan in 1994-95.
Q: Are stories of woman parliamentarians being heckled on the ground that they have come on reserved seats very commonplace?
A: As a former parliamentarian, I never experienced any discrimination on the basis of gender. An individual can make his/her place in the assembly only if he/she works hard. And now that the speaker of the National Assembly is a woman, she should be giving women a chance to speak.
Q: Have you personally initiated the passage of any legislation designed to ameliorate the plight of women?
A: I presented 11 bills in person. In addition to these, I presented six amendment bills and participated in [the formulation of] 18 bills of my party. These 35 bills deal with the welfare, development, protection and uplift of women including both rural and working women, a bill for blood transfusion-related diseases and the women’s rights of inheritance and family protection bill. I also submitted amendments in the disaster management bill, Family Laws 1961, ERRA Council, Federal Public Service Commission Bill, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Bill.
Q: Are you satisfied with the legislation enacted by this government?
A: The current and previous parliaments have failed to provide basic human rights to women. The previous regime could only pass two laws during their term. The Jamaat supported the amendment declaring ‘honour’ killing as “deliberate murder.” There is a need for substantial legislation to provide education, health facilities and a fair system of justice.
Q: There is a common perception that all pro-woman legislation is either shot down or watered down to meet the demands of the religious parties.
A: I totally disagree with this; it is just an allegation. How can a party which has the most organised women’s wing and whose women members are playing their role in parliamentary business and societal legislation, be against pro-women legislation?
Q: Also just enacting laws is not enough. Have you ever considered the enforcement aspect of these laws?
A: We can’t achieve anything with mere legislation, until and unless these laws are implemented with the aim of constructing a just society. We are blessed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has rendered an ideal system to the society, which is a benchmark for the uplift of the deprived and vulnerable sections of society, including women. [What’s more] it wasn’t implemented by force.
Q: Are you satisfied with the mode of election of women MPs to the reserved seats for women in the legislatures?
A: No, the system needs a radical change; reserved seats for women should be allocated on the basis of total votes obtained by parties, not by the number of seats a party has won. A valid proportional representation system can only be implemented when every voter’s participation in the elections has an impact on the distribution of seats.
Read all five of the MNA interviews: