Increased women participation


Oct 07 - 13, 2002

Let's start with a question: "What's the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?" The answer is, "A psychologist is a blind person who is looking for a black cat in the dark while a psychiatrist is a blind person who is looking for a black cat in the dark which is just not there."

The same can also be true for all types of political analysts who are going loco to offer 'expert opinion' to explain reasons why Elections 2002 lack the traditional fervour. Most of these 'opinions' are biased and crafted only to hide the personal political whims of the analysts themselves. There are those who blame the colourless election campaigns on the absence of political heavy-weight such as two-time former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto have been disqualified to contest the polls and both of them are in exile: the former in Saudi Arabia under a 'deal' which he and his family say 'just doesn't exist' and the latter moving from country to country. Both of them have been convicted from the Pakistani courts.

The most important reason for the indifference on the part of the electorates is conveniently overlooked by the majority of these analysts: What can you expect from a people whose aspirations to bring change through ballot four times during last 14 years have been dashed again and again? What can you expect from a people who have voted in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1999? What can you expect from a people who have trusted Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif twice only to have their dreams shattered again and again? What can you expect from a people who were ruled not only by Bibi and Mian twice but also by four caretaker prime ministers Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Balkh Sher Mazari, imported Moeen Qureshi, Malik Mairaj Khalid?

The following example is enough to understand the indifference of the people with the electoral process, which did nothing else than replacing the masters who left the class system intact to rule people with an iron fist making no attempts to better their social, economic, cultural and political woes. In 1993, Pakistanis perhaps had the unique honour to be ruled by 5 yes five different prime ministers; Nawaz Sharif who was sacked by the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and was substituted by Balkh Sher Mazari. Nawaz Sharif again ruled briefly as he was reinstated by the Supreme Court only to be forced once again by the then Chief of Army Staff, General Abdul Waheed Kakar. He was replaced by caretaker Moeen Qureshi, a Green Card holder imported from the US, who was replaced by Benazir Bhutto the after she was elected in the general elections the same year. Five prime ministers. That should explain the indifference of the masses to the electoral process.


An entire segment of political heavyweights is being wiped out by the minimum educational requirement of the Bachelor degree by the present government. The condition provided the people an opportunity to laugh their hearts out at the plight of many a seasoned politicians. The former federal minister and Ambassador to the US in the then Nawaz Sharif government, Abida Hussain, a heavyweight contender from Jhang in Punjab took her BA examinations and paid Rs 30,000 to get her degree in advance to qualify for the elections. She secured 466 marks to meet the graduation pre-requisite. While people always knew that most of their traditional representatives belonging to the feudal both agriculture and industrial sectors were academically weak, the prerequisite exposed their folly fully.

However, the traditional and professional politicians though out of the Elections 2002 race are certainly not down. Masters supremo of 'jor tor' (make and break) they have no difficulty to find substitutes in their sons, daughters, wives, sisters and even daughter-in-laws who have the coveted bachelors degrees. This would ensure the disqualified traditional politicians to continue smelling the sweet smell of power albeit indirectly through their graduate progeny.

Hounded by National Accountability Bureau the dreaded anti-corruption set-up formed by the present government which has made a number of politicians, bureaucrats and civil servants to cough up millions in deals to avoid imprisonment, and/or facing disqualification from prerequisite, the traditional politicians fielded graduate female family members as covering candidates in many cases. The situation has taken many funny turns.

For instance, in two constituencies of Faisalabad both husband and wife are contesting elections for National Assembly seats. In NA 80, former provincial minister and PPPP ticket holder Badruddin Chaudhary is facing competition from his wife Munawwar Sultana among others. The similar is the case in NA 84, where former MNA and a PML (Q) candidate Sardar Dildar Ahmed Cheema is facing competition from his wife as well as others. The two female candidates were fielded by their husbands as covering candidates in case their own nominations were rejected. However, they did not withdraw their nominations and have also been allocated the elections symbol and thus remain in the race.

Hounded by NAB, Pir Mazharul Haq, a former Sindh minister belonging to the PPP, fielded his only daughter Saima Shah as a covering candidate who is now contesting the polls. Two sister-in-laws of Benazir Bhutto, Azra and Fouzia, are also contesting the polls.

While the increased participation by the women in the politics should be welcomed, the fact remains that most of the female candidates are just there to help their disqualified manfolk to retain their political clout indirectly.