ISLAMABAD - The Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC), formed to increase women’s impact on legislation and their participation in decision-making processes, is in a visible danger due to differences among its members from treasury and opposition.

The major opposition party’s female lawmakers are much disappointed from its performance, and some them even want to form a parallel body to serve the real purpose of such a group of women parliamentarians.

The treasury benches’ members are however confident that no parallel body will emerge in future and this criticism is mere a ‘political gimmick’.

The WPC was formed by former National Assembly speaker Fehmida Mirza in PPP’s era but policy differences primarily emerging from the party potions the members and the way the group works has marred it for long.

A clear division between the government and opposition female lawmakers also recently emerged in last National Assembly session when opposition failed to get support of treasury benches over a privilege motion about discrimination in allocation of development funds.

When contacted, WPC Secretary MNA Shaista Pervez Malik said party politics should not influence Women Caucus at any stage. “This body is doing its work without any discrimination,” the treasury member claimed, alleging the opposition members of criticising its working since the beginning of the “election year”.

“It is very sad about those who are talking about a parallel body,” Shaista said, and rejected the allegation that the Caucus was not addressing the issues raised by the members of the group.

WPC secretary was confident that no parallel body will emerge. “I don’t think so. PPP is a mature, party it will not support PTI’s point of view on it,” she opined.

PTI’s Shireen Mazari claimed that opposition parties were planning for a parallel body to address the issues of women. “This parliamentary body has practically become a PML-N women caucus,” Mazari remarked.

“There is a clear division, as women lawmakers from treasury never stand with opposition members of the body on even genuine issue,” she said.

Citing example of discrimination with opposition lawmakers, Mazari said government MNAs even did not show courage to sign the privilege motion about the allocation of development funds.

The women lawmakers from the opposition benches had submitted this motion in the office of the National Assembly speaker for being discriminated in allocation of development funds but they were not lend support by the government members.

When contacted, treasury benches MNA Arifa Khalid opined that the effort to form a parallel women caucus will prove futile.

“This existing parliamentary body is smoothly doing its work. A parallel body will have no value at all,” she said, blaming some opposition legislators for not following the rules and regulation.

“Some opposition members are playing up. Every matter should be dealt with as per rules and regulations,” she added.

Opposition PPP MNA Shazia Marri said the formation of Women Caucus was a positive step of the previous government but for last over three years it has become non-functional. “Its working is now much disappointing. No issues related to women are being debated on the floor,” she said.

About privilege motion regarding development funds, Marri said a division was visible on the floor of the house between treasury and opposition legislators. “Strength of women is being undermined, which is very disappointing,” she said.

To a question about the possibility of the formation of a parallel body, she said ruling party should resolve the issue and pay proper attention towards WPC efficiency.

After its formation under the head of former NA speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, the WPC was considered a milestone in the country’s parliamentary history to the cause of women rights in Pakistan.

It is generally believed that the building of cross-party caucuses can help provide the support necessary to promote a gender equality legislative and policy agenda.

Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Asif, during the budgetary proceedings last year, had used some words against Dr Shireen Mazari in the house which created a rumpus in the house. The PTI woman leader and other opposition lawmakers had staged walkout, demanding apology from Khawaja Asif for his remarks.

On it, Asif had submitted his apology in the Speaker’s chamber but it was not acceptable to opposition members, and they attempted to raise this matter at the WPC. The matter could not be discussed in WPC due to opposition by the treasury members, which reportedly caused division in the caucus.