A party that promised women representation in all government matters in its manifesto has failed to live up to its word, angering both party members and opposition alike.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has held the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) for 8 years now but has failed to appoint any women to the cabinet. Presently, the K-P Assembly has a total of 26 women parliamentarians from the government and the opposition out of which 18 are from the ruling PTI and not a single one is a minister. The only women representation the PTI in K-P gave was in its maiden tenure to Mehr Taj Roghani, by elevating her to the post of Special Assistant to Chief Minister for Social Welfare.
Now 3 years into its second tenure in the province, the PTI’s attitude of shutting out women from ministerial positions has frustrated both PTI and opposition female parliamentarians. Nighat Orakzai, PPP parliamentary leader and senior parliamentarian in the K-P Assembly, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that since the day she was sworn in, she has been raising her voice for women to participate in the cabinet. “I did not sit in the assembly meetings as a form of protest for a year and said that there is no point in sitting in meetings until a female minister becomes part of the cabinet,” Orakzai said. She went on to say that if other women sitting on the opposition and government benches had resigned from their respective committees then, things would have been different today.
A fiery Orakzai inquired, “In the cabinet, Taimur Saleem Jhagra has the Ministry of Health and Finance. Can one of the ministries not be given to a woman?” However, Jhagra is not the only one in charge of two departments – Kamran Bangash has information and higher education,
Provincial Minister Mohibullah has agriculture and livestock, and Abdul Karim Khan holds positions in the departments of technical education and industry.
A female PTI member in the K-P Assembly, talking to the Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity, said that the cabinet has been reshuffled several times and talks have been held with the Chief Minister but still women are not being included in the cabinet. She asked, “Is it not necessary to have women ministers to tackle issues like rape and violence against women and children?”
Nelofar Bakhtiar, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, an organization working on women’s rights in the country, told The Express Tribune that she had spoken to the chief minister and governor on several occasions to ensure representation of women in the K-P cabinet.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2021.