Monthly Archives: March 2019

women democracy and corruption

Women, democracy and corruption

“Women are half the society. You cannot have a revolution without women. You cannot have democracy without women. You cannot have equality without women. You can’t have anything without women.” — Nawal El Saadawi

Putting an end to gender-based discrimination towards women is central to achieving sustainable and prosperous societies. Women and girls represent half of the society and, therefore, half of its potential. Without gender equality, the potential and representation of a substantive part of our society remains untapped.

UNICEF defines gender equality to be ‘that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections’. Gender equality is at the very heart of fundamental human rights and a new global development agenda. However, in a greater part of world including Pakistan the gender discrimination is still holding back women from an active and equal participation in public life.

Almost 48.8% of Pakistan’s population comprises of females. Yet, only 24.93% participate in the labor force (World Bank, 2017). Globally, Pakistan ranked at 166th in the female Labor Force Participation (LFP) rate out of 181 countries. Even the active female labor force is not fairly rewarded amidst a huge gender wage gap in Pakistan. According to International Labor Organization (ILO) report 2017, Pakistan has a wage inequality score (48.4%) in the lower-middle income countries which is not only the highest in this category but also higher than the global wage inequality score of 35.5%.

Similar scenario is pervasive regarding female political participation in Pakistan with merely 20.6% of parliamentary seats being held by women. The proportion is less than the world average of 23.6%. In terms of women participation in elections, the female voters’ turnout has been consistently low in Pakistan. During the recent General Elections 2018, only 46.89% of registered women voters casted their votes compared to 56.07% of their male counterparts. This happened despite the fact that the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees equal rights and opportunities for women to participate in politics but the deep-seated gender inequality still inhibits women to level their participation in politics with that of their male counterparts.

Not surprisingly, Pakistan is the second worst country in the world in terms of gender equality, ranking 148 out of 149 countries in the latest Global Gender Gap Index. The index further ranks Pakistan at 146th in economic participation and opportunity, 145th in health and survival, 139th in educational attainment, and 97th in political empowerment. These statistics are indicative of a restricted economic and political environment for women in Pakistan, which is also confining the overall development potential of Pakistan.

Gender equality has emerged as the leading public discourse at local, national and global fronts. The Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to build peaceful societies and effective, corruption-free institutions, stresses the need of women-inclusive decision making at all levels. However, Pakistan stands far behind many other countries in controlling corruption and promoting democracy – the country has been globally ranked at 117th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2018 and ranked as low as 112th out of 167 countries on the latest Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. For the democracy to be sustainable and resilient in Pakistan, its political system must take into account the less heard, women voices.

On this women’s day let us reaffirm our commitment to a society where women and men can participate and have equal opportunities.

Breaking the Wheel of Injustice

Pakistan is mired in thousands of land and property disputes where a majority of real estate owners and allottees are either on the verge of losing their properties or have already lost them. Rampant corrupt practices manifest themselves in one or other forms i.e. fabricated or fraudulent land records; multiple registrations of the same land by different parties; inaccurate/arbitrary boundary demarcations leading to overlapping claims; and illegal land possession by the land grabbing mafia. It is estimated that 80 percent of Pakistan’s civil case load is to do with land acquisition and titling disputes. A significant proportion of land disputes emerge from land grabbing and misappropriation of property by the builders. It gets worse when thousands of people have to run after the builders to gain possession of their legally-owned property. Typically, such can take four to ten years to resolve.

Amongst these struggling owners is the story of Mr. Adnan Qureshi, who had faced countless hurdles to recover the possession of a plot which was in his late father’s name under a housing scheme approved by Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA). The plot was booked by Adnan’s father, Mr. Tariq Qureshi, in 2004 with all the installments paid by the deceased except the last one while he was diagnosed with cancer. Four years later, Mr. Tariq died leaving his young sons unaware of the property and its pending ownership. A few years later when Qureshi learnt that his father had left a property behind him with its possession still pending due to non-payment of just one last installment, he approached the builder requesting them to settle down the issue either by repaying him the amount or allocating a plot worth the price that was paid by his father. However, not surprisingly, despite repeated visits and meeting with the management of the builder company for three years, Adnan and his siblings have not been able to claim an inch of land or corresponding repayment.

The real estate market in Pakistan has expanded significantly over the past three decades built on the lifelong savings of millions of ordinary citizens like Late Mr. Qureshi, and so the dispute continues between the builders and property buyers who invested a large chunk of their wealth hoping to secure a shelter on their heads for future or for their off springs to live and start a family. Yet, in the absence of a legal cover to ensure protection of their civic rights, majority of property owners and allottees see their investment worth billions of rupees in doldrums when the builders start wavering to give them full possession of their property within the expected time line or halts the construction halfway into the project. The only option these unfortunate land owners and their families are left with is to wait a lifetime to get full possession of their properties or to pay flat extralegal charges in the disguise of ‘transfer fees’.

Fortunately, Adnan decided to approach Transparency International Pakistan to raise his matter with the concerned authorities for a timely resolution. TI Pakistan willingly intervened in the matter and approached the top management of the housing company which had seized the property and money deposited by Qureshi’s late father. TI-Pakistan requested and pressed the project builders to negotiate with the aggrieved party and resolve the matter as soon as possible. The issue was also highlighted by TI-Pakistan to multiple authorities of Punjab including Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) and Registrar Cooperative Housing Society, Lahore.

Within a week of TI-Pakistan’s interference into the matter, Rawalpindi Development Authority responded back intimating the builders to brief the authority on Mr. Qureshi’s case. Through its involvement, TI-Pakistan effectively acted as an arbiter amongst the aggrieved party, builder and the authority and finally opened up negotiations between the parties – something Adnan and his brothers had been waiting for as long as over three years.

Consequently, these negotiations brought good tidings for Late Mr. Tariq’s family. Adnan was finally able to recover the entire amount paid by his deceased father redeeming his father’s lifelong savings just some weeks after TI-Pakistan’s intervention.