archieves1 "Don't just criticize our government, also highlight its achievements"

"Don't just criticize our government, also highlight its achievements"

"Don't just criticize our government, also highlight its achievements"

Shagufta Malik is a political scientist and currently provincial president of the ANP (Women Wing). She is Chairperson of the Standing Committee Sports, Cultural, Tourism, Archeology and Youth Affairs, Chairperson of the Standing Committee of Planning and Development (PND) as well as Chairperson of the Public Safety and Police Complaint Commission. As the provincial president of the ANP she arranged a Women Peace Convention, which was a great success with more than three thousand women participating.

My family had a strong inclination towards politics and my mother’s side of
the family was associated to the Awami National Party. So I was naturally
inclined towards politics myself, which lead to my participation in student
politics and later into active politics. When I was doing my Master’s in
Political Science, ANP formed their office in the Peshawar District, and I was
given the responsibility of being the president of the Peshawar District office.
I was then advised by our party president to contest in the District Council
elections. I had considered this to be quite a difficult task, as it is not easy
for a woman to go from door to door as a part of the campaign for votes. But
with the full support of my party ANP, I contested in the 2004 local government
district elections. When the election was concluded, I had secured the second
highest votes, amongst other much experienced contesters. After my participation
in these elections, my interest in the political arena increased as it showed me
that I could reach out to the people at the grass root level and have a forum
where their issues could be brought up and solutions could be devised. I am the
first woman from my family to not only take part in active politics, but to be
selected as a member of the provincial assembly.

By Sobia Nazir

Can you tell us about how you came into politics?

My family had a strong inclination towards politics and my mother’s side of the
family was associated to the Awami National Party. So I was naturally inclined
towards politics myself, which lead to my participation in student politics and
later into active politics. When I was doing my Master’s in Political Science,
ANP formed their office in the Peshawar District, and I was given the
responsibility of being the president of the Peshawar District office. I was
then advised by our party president to contest in the District Council
elections. I had considered this to be quite a difficult task, as it is not easy
for a woman to go from door to door as a part of the campaign for votes. But
with the full support of my party ANP, I contested in the 2004 local government
district elections. When the election was concluded, I had secured the second
highest votes, amongst other much experienced contesters. After my participation
in these elections, my interest in the political arena increased as it showed me
that I could reach out to the people at the grass root level and have a forum
where their issues could be brought up and solutions could be devised. I am the
first woman from my family to not only take part in active politics, but to be
selected as a member of the provincial assembly.

Can you share your experiences as a woman working in the Provincial Assembly?
How is your work relationship with the other female MPA’s?

Before I was elected as an MPA, I was a member in the District Council Peshawar,
which gave me valuable experience of working on the grass root level. The
current governing party in KPK’s provincial assembly comprises of ANP in a
coalition with PPP. There are 22 female MPA’s, belonging to different political
parties in the provincial assembly, 9 are from ANP, 6 from the PPP and the rest
from the other parties such as JUI, Sherpao, Muslim League N and Muslim League
Q. I must appreciate the fact that all the female MPA’s (even from the
opposition parties) have always supported causes of women. Whether it be a
legislation presented in the Provincial Assembly or a new project to uplift the
economic conditions of the women folk. The female MPA’s have also worked closely
during dire times when people have needed our support and help. For example,
when millions of people came to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, due to the military action
taken against the militants in FATA and Swat, the female MPA’s arose to the
cause. We donated our monthly salary and bought everyday essential items and
distributed them amongst the IDP’s (Internally displaced people). This was only
the beginning; the donations increased as the public came to know of our
campaign and joined us to help the needy fellow countrymen.

How do you think you can work for the benefit of women in the area?

The women from KPK are more conservative, therefore it is easier for them to
discuss their problems and issues candidly with us as compared to the male MPA’s.
In this way, we are always well aware of the acute issues being faced by the
women, so we can work closely with them to devise various solutions. For example
we are using the development funds to build technical institutes in about seven
districts, so as to increase the income generation abilities of women from all
walks of life. Whether it be women who are house wives or students who are
studying in schools and colleges. These institutes will not only help them to
develop their skills, but also to create awareness in them to market their own
products so as to gain maximum profits from their work. Apart from this, 30% of
the finance from the Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation program will be provided
specifically to women. Women will be provided with small loans ranging from Rs.
25,000 to Rs. 300,000, so that they may start small businesses and earn a better
living. These loans will be provided on interest and tax fee basis.

As you have visited some of the flood affected areas regularly, could you
describe how the situation is there? What are the living conditions of the
people?

The female MPA’s played a very important role in the relief efforts after the
flood. I had formed committees comprising of people from the village and from
the party and women of the affected villages. I myself used to conduct personal
visits to the affected areas to gather first hand information regarding the
needs of the people. The items would then be bought by myself and the committee
members and distributed amongst the flood refugees. The month of Ramadan came
soon after the flood, I remember going to the camps and shelters of the flood
refugees early mornings and returning only late evenings, as the fast would be
about to open. At the moment people have enough food to last them for a month or
two, since the initial relief packages primarily comprised of food. Now with
winter approaching, it is getting colder and they lack proper shelter to be able
to avoid the cold. More NFI’s (Non Food Items) are needed such as blankets, warm
clothes and better shelter.

Can you describe the selection process for the distribution of aid amongst
the affected people? Also, do you think the government has been able to provide
relief efforts to the flood stricken people who are in far flung areas?

As most of the relief efforts come to an end, we have begun with the
reconstruction/rehabilitation process. The government has started with Watan
Cards issuance, according to which each family will receive an initial sum of Rs.
20,000 to help them back on their feet. These cards were issued on the basis of
the National Identity cards, scrutinized by NADRA (National Database &
Registration Authority) and issued through PDMA (Provincial Disaster Management
Authority). Although this is a very nominal sum, we do plan to follow this
payment with a second and bigger instalment and then a third one. (About 70
thousand people were affected only in Nowshera.) But the Provincial Government
lacks the required funds for these purposes, we have not received any funds from
the Federal Government. The Chief Minister called a conference with the
international donors to discuss the shortage of funds required to start with the
rehabilitation process and thus gain financial aid, but to no avail. Due to
which we were forced to take out about 170 Million Rupees from our provincial
Annual Development Fund (ADP) of 200 Million Rupees. This fund is very important
for the development projects of the province, but now we are using this money to
provide the people with the initial financial assistance that they require.
Being a democratic government, it was our responsibility to provide the flood
affected people with relief. And the elected members were well aware of their
duty towards the people and did their level best to reach all the people of
their constituencies. People are being provided with cross-cheques issued to
avoid any kind of misuse of the aid being provided.

What is being done regarding the education for the children in the flood
affected areas?

Initially, the government had placed many of the flood refugees in the
government owned schools, since these were the only buildings in somewhat
liveable conditions and also vacant as it had been summer holidays at the time
the catastrophe hit the region. When in September the summer holidays came to an
end, the government told the people to return to the sites of their homes, so
that the education of children would not be disturbed. The children have
returned to school and are attending their classes regularly. Although the
buildings of the schools weren’t damaged extremely, the furniture and most of
the school equipment was washed away. We, the government, are trying our best to
make the schools fully functional as soon as possible. We had a meeting with the
Planning and Development Department just a couple of days ago, which in turn
informed us that they are working on the complete restoration of schools on
priority basis.

How is the political situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the flood?

The people of our province KPK have been facing many problems since 2005 in the
form of the earthquake, the rise in militancy and now this flood. All this has
led them to be under continuous stress and tension. But ever since we have been
in the Government, we have been working hard to meet the promises we made to our
voters. We have succeeded in changing the name of the province to KPK, which was
a long awaited desire of the people. We are also working on other issues such as
provincial autonomy, 18th amendment etc. People are appreciating our efforts and
do recognize the numerous problems that the democratic government has been
facing ever since it came into power. I would also like to state here, that the
media needs to play a more balanced role. It shouldn’t only criticize the
government, but also highlight the various efforts it has made and its
achievements.

How is the relationship between the military and the government in Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa concerning the maintenance of the flooded areas? Is there some
discussion and cooperation or is it more a situation of competition?

The military and government have been working in close cooperation in order to
provide relief efforts to the flood. There were numerous discussions on various
issues regarding the relief efforts, and this way we were in a better position
to provide aid to maximum number of people in a short span of time.

Ms. Malik, thank you very much for this interview.



Heinrich BOll Stiftung; The Green Political Foundation

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