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Friday, 25 May, 2001, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Are women quotas in Pakistani politics workable?

As Pakistan prepares to hold local elections, many women across the country are entering politics for the first time.

All the local councils being created under staggered elections will have six out of 21 seats reserved for women; and in the second round of elections held last month, women made up a sixth of all candidates.

General Musharraf has said his vision is to build up democracy from the grassroots, so will this latest measure bring about a real shift in power?

Will it succeed in bringing women into the political arena, or will conservatism prevail?

How do such reforms square with the army's stifling of national parties?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Yes women should be encouraged in politics so that they can represent and try to lift other women's conditions in the region. But both men and women should have to submit to special background checks, like education, criminal, marital life, dealing with their children, neighbours and society, as well as social activity backgrounds. This will build trust and confidence among people and the community will grow.
Perwez Akhter, USA

I believe that providing seats to women is a positive step forward. They certainly cannot perform more poorly than their male predecessors and hopefully they will have the moral courage to tackle the really tough issues, such as land reform, child labour and human rights. Praise should be given to General Musharraf for trying something different.
Rashid Miraj, USA

It's an awesome move

Azeem Diwan, USA
It's an awesome move. I think women are usually less corrupt and more sensitive to issues. Such a change should be good for Pakistan even though I believe democracy is not the right system for the country.
Azeem Diwan, USA

Allowing women to enter politics is pretty meaningless unless and until Pakistan returns to the international community of democratic nations. The country, as currently constituted, is a military dictatorship. In such an environment, the role of women will always remain at the mercy of the military dictator.
Rahul Mahajan, UK

Definitely! Pakistani women have a lot of talent and they have the potential to achieve a lot and make Pakistan a much, much better country. We have examples like Shaista Ikramullah and our current ambassador to the USA.
Fawwad Shafi, Pakistan

Women make up 50% of the population of Pakistan. This is a really bold and positive move to give them the opportunity to participate in decision making.
Arqum Riaz, Pakistan

Quotas never work for anyone

Suchin Gupta, India/ USA
Quotas never work for anyone. However the Pakistani government should encourage women in all fields of life. This is one of the key requirements for Pakistan to list itself amongst successful nations.
Suchin Gupta, India/ USA

Surprising move, considering that Pakistan's Taleban buddies would probably prefer that Muslim women spend their lives hidden from any make human being other than the husband. Pure window-dressing in a country that never has, and never will, understand what democracy is all about.
Rustam Roy, England

How can you expect women to play a role in a country where the literacy level is low?
Syed Safi Ali, Iran

Of course women should be encouraged in politics. But I do think there is a danger in thinking that introducing women to parliament itself can eradicate conservatism. Instead, we need women in politics who will stand up for women's rights, and lobby for progressive causes, just as we need men who will do so.
Dharshini Seneviratne, Sri Lanka

I wish the women of Pakistan would be able to fight the fundamental forces

Pausali Sinha, India
As a citizen of a neighbouring country, I sincerely hope for a return of democracy in Pakistan. Women's participation will definitely strengthen the democracy. I hope that a woman should not be represented as a dummy of a man to fulfil his interest. Real involvement of women in building a country like Pakistan is absolutely necessary. I wish the women of Pakistan would be able to fight the fundamental forces.
Pausali Sinha, India

Yes, women must enter the political front, but they must have a share in policy-making and decision-making. In the recent past we have been having women MPs, ministers and even a woman prime minister. Sadly they could do nothing to improve the status of women in the country. How much space will be allowed to the new lot of women politicians in the policy-making and decision-making, has yet to be seen.
Farhat Taj, Pakistan

They should be given their true rights according to Islam. By nature woman is less corrupt than man.
Razi Ullah, Canada/Pakistan

In Pakistan democracy is doomed from the onset because of the tribal, ethnic and religious divide. The women candidates have mostly come from the same families as most of the male candidates, that is, the tribal sardars and large landowners. The gender of the members in these councils will not change anything, as the background of these female candidates is the same as the corrupt male candidates. As far as the Generals are concerned, they have always lived in a fool's paradise. They are themselves responsible for the general mess in Pakistan. Their actions are more like a butcher performing surgery on human beings. They have not a clue what they are doing to an already down-and-out country.
Salman, UK

Pakistani women will bring a completely different and welcome perspective to the politics of that great country. All power to these brave women!
Yasmine, Scotland

Islam gives more rights to women than any other "ideology" or "religion" in the world

Ahmed, UK
Islam gives more rights to women than any other "ideology" or "religion" in the world. Islam realises that men and women have been created differently, therefore it provides an environment where women are protected and not merely treated as "sex objects" judged by their beauty. As for women in politics, the Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) wife was a businesswoman who commanded great power. Pakistan is also one of the few countries to have had a woman prime minister. Many countries, especially India and also western nations, are still playing catch up as far as women's rights under Islam go.
Ahmed, UK

I am not sure how people with "Taleban" mentality in Pakistan will react! Nowadays their weight is increasing in the day-to-day life of a Pakistani.
Raj Aryan, India

I think it's a very positive move towards political stability to introduce women into politics. This will lead to a radical change in Pakistani society towards working women. Now Pakistani women will take an active part in a male-dominated society for positive development of the country.
Shakil Ahmed, Pakistan/UK

In Pakistan women are like cattle. Men own these cattle and define or rather dictate their destiny. It is the need of the day to introduce a forceful quota system and allocation percentage for female representation in government, so a breakthrough may be achieved in putting Pakistani women into the mainstream of political decision making.
Mirza Imran A. Karim , Australia

Women...should stay put in their house

Aman, USA
Women...should stay put in their house. It's unIslamic for a lady to display her charm...
Aman, USA

There have always been women in Pakistan politics - both as leaders and as parliamentarians. The only difference this time seems to be the numbers in which they are entering into the elections. All power to them and to the people of Pakistan they wish to represent.
Javed Bhatty, USA

I would say reform has nothing to do with religion. If General Musharraf has a vision to build democracy from its grassroots, he must also have the vision to fix the problems the country has. It's about time Third World countries moved on in their ideological states. Citizens in Pakistan must wake up to changing their environment for themselves and not just through the political powers. I believe it's the only way Pakistan can have success.
Imran Javeed, UK

I'm afraid that, except for Benazir, they really are a quota

Umair Rehman, Canada
I'm afraid that, except for Benazir, they really are a quota. But there are other factors to the equation, number 1 being the literacy rate. As we have seen in other developing countries, unless the female literacy rate in rural Pakistan takes off, this is going to remain a grim reality.
Umair Rehman, Canada

From the start of Islam, women played an active part in society (as exemplified by the Prophet's wife, Khadija, who was a successful businesswomen who employed the Prophet) and in political decision making. It is only un-Islamic cultural practices that have held them back. It is good to see the Pakistani government reviving the spirit of Islam in this way.
Iqbal Ahmed, London

I think women bring a certain sensibility in thinking process that our politicians lack. They are less likely to react immediately to a certain suggestion/comment like men do, relatively speaking. The quota of 33% will ensure that the local legislatures will have that sensibility and understanding of women's issues. So, I think it will be good for our country.
Moazzam Khoja, Pakistan-USA

Women can help make Pakistan a more tolerant place

Shazia Bhatti, England
It is about time women got into politics in Pakistan to combat the use of their bodies as the means by which Muslim men assert their dominance! Something needs to be done about honour killings, women's economic dependence on men, the increased misuse of Islam for controlling people and the corruption that any segregated society engenders. Women can help make Pakistan a more tolerant place - something the Islamic world in general desperately needs.
Shazia Bhatti, England

I think allowing women to enter politics is a good move that will do good to Pakistan as a country. If women are allowed in eminent positions then radicalism will be curbed. I think acceptance of modern world values will help Pakistan to achieve stability. Good luck to them.
Sanjana, India

Yes, I think women can work in certain criteria. Islam has always allowed woman to work IF the man somehow can't work.
Sameer Khan, USA

Islam gave rights to women before the British did. So it's about time we realise injustice to the women of third world countries. It's about time to right wrongs.
Mo Akhtar, Pakistan/Canada

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14 Aug 00 | South Asia
Musharraf unveils local election plan
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