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Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
As I jot down these lines, the three-day International Conference on the Role of Women Parliamentarians in Strengthening Democracy and Social Justice is underway in Islamabad. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Women Parliamentary Caucus for conducting such a successful event with participants including women parliamentarians from more than twelve countries from around the globe. There is no doubt that woman parliamentarians have strived hard to make a place for themselves in national politics. However, it should also be remembered that most of these women parliamentarians make their way to the national and provincial assemblies using the reserved quota. All of us are aware of a number of such cases where an incumbent woman parliamentarian lost the election only to be nominated on the reserved seat. This nomination of women on reserved seats actually negates the very essence of democracy and the representation of citizens. Anyways, this is something that I felt after reading about the conference in which Maryam Nawaz was invited as the Guest of Honor. Actually, she was attending the conference in place of her mother, First Lady, Kulsoom Nawaz. While addressing the conference, she spoke volumes about many successful women in the country, especially those who have made their mark on the global level, including women like Benazir Bhutto, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Malala Yousafzai and Marium Mukhtiar. However, she also touched upon the problems faced by women in a male-dominated society like Pakistan. This also brings me back to the point that I had raised earlier: nominating women on reserved seats. Being a male dominated society, the role and potential of women in Pakistan is often underrated. However, this does not mean that women do not get any support at all. Actually, at times, women are even offered extra support — something that spoils chances for competent women. Such measures might help fill numbers in the short term but only make things worse in the longer run. I would now like to talk about the presence of Nawaz in the inaugural session of the conference in the place of her mother. Throughout the last four years of the incumbent government, the prime minister and all his men have been trying hard to establish space for Nawaz in the national politics. We have seen her play a role in the initial phase of the Prime Minister Youth Scheme. Similarly, people have also been talking about her role in running the prime minister’s media cell. Now, her presence at the conference has once again raised many eyebrows. Some analysts are going as far as terming her as the heir apparent of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Well, this might look like the father and daughter Bhutto duo, but actually there are many differences between the two. . Benazir Bhutto had received her first hand political training from her father. She had attended one of the best educational institutes; fulfilling all prerequisites of a democratically elected politician in the country. On the other hand—and I am sorry to say this — Nawaz cannot be compared to Bhutto in any manner. If the Sharif dynasty is thinking about placing the honourable Nawaz as the predecessor then I have my doubts about this decision. Going back to the conference, Dr Fehmida Mirza and a number of other honourable women parliamentarians attending the conference were in a much better position to host the international guests and the representatives of various civil society organizations attending the conference.
They were more deserving of being the guests of honour keeping in view their political struggle.

It is true that Pakistan has had this problem of dynastic politics since quite some time now. At least two major political parties exemplify this claim. However, it is also important to understand that democracy can only survive in Pakistan if conscious decisions are taken by going beyond dynastic politics. This is the only way that we can make sure that our future generations will live in a democratic country.

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