Sunday, January 9, 2022

Pakistan Gets First Woman Supreme Court Judge Despite Top Judges' Opposition

Judge Ayesha Malik has been confirmed as Pakistan's first woman Supreme Court judge in the face of strong opposition by the majority of sitting judges of the top court and Pakistan Bar Council. It was two  affirmative votes by the PTI government representatives that helped her win 5-4 confirmation in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). Only two of the five sitting Supreme Court judges who are members of the SJC supported her confirmation. 

Justice Ayesha Malik

The historic nomination of Justice Ayesha Malik was supported by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed,  Justice Umar Ata Bandial, ex-judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem and Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan. It was opposed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Akhtar Hussain opposed the selection.    

Justice Ayesha Malik is a Harvard Law School graduate. She started her legal career working with Mr. Fakhurddin G. Ebrahim at Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim & Co. in Karachi in 1997. Then in 2001 she joined the law practice of Rizvi, Isa, Afridi and Agnell as the head of the firm's Corporate & Litigation Department in Lahore. Justice Ayesha Malik was appointed to the Lahore High Court in 2012 where she made a historic ruling banning the "two-finger test" in rape cases.  Justice Malik said the test was "humiliating" and had "no forensic value".     

Justice Malik's appointment to the nation's highest court is part of a silent social revolution in Pakistan with a rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up in public and private institutions. However, the status of women in Pakistan continues to vary considerably across different classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and urban social customs on women's lives. While some women are soaring in the skies as pilots of passenger jets and supersonic fighter planes, others are being murdered for defying tribal traditions.  

Female Labor Participation Rates in South Asia

Pakistan's female labor force participation rate (22%) has recently surpassed the rate in India (21%) but still remains very low relative to the global average of 47%. Women's education and literacy levels remain low in Pakistan but the gender gap is declining in terms of literacy rates and mean years of schooling, according to Pakistan Labor Force Survey 2017-18.  There is about a one year gap between men and women in terms of education attained. On average, a Pakistani male born after 1995 will leave school in 8th grade. A female born at the same time will leave in 7th grade.

A 2020 global survey conducted by Payoneer, a global payments platform company based in Silicon Valley, showed that Pakistani women freelancers are earning $22 an hour, 10% more than the $20 an hour earned by men. While Pakistani male freelancers earnings are at par with global average, Pakistani female earnings are higher than the global average for freelancers. Digital gig economy is not only helping women earn more than men but it is also reducing barriers to women's labor force participation in the country. The survey also concludes that having a university degree does not help you earn more in the growing gig economy. The survey was conducted in 2015.

Freelancers Hourly Rate by Gender. Source: Payoneer

An average Pakistani freelancer working 34 hours a week at $20 an hour earns $34,000 a year, or Rs. 5.7 million a year, a small fortune for a young Pakistani. This is one of the upsides of the online global labor market for skilled young men and women in developing nations like Pakistan. Sometimes freelancing experience leads to tech startups in Pakistan.


Rashid A. said...

Just my opinion.

According to this report:

Justice Qazi Faez did NOT participate in the voting both times the matter came up before JCP.

Ayesha Malik got 5 votes in favor, but 3 votes in opposition.

Reason for opposition by Bar Council: Appointment is a violation of principle of seniority.

I believe these lawyers organizations are off base. They must NOT insist on seniority, which is like riding an escalator, no consideration for merit. That is the system used for appointment of Chief Justice of Pakistan. Pakistan has had some definitely mediocre CJP!

Yet, this might imply that system to promote judges from High Courts to Supreme Court is highly prone to personal/ institutional favoritism.

There is very little meaningful role of the parliament. A parliamentary committee will vote on this and it can only approve or disapprove. And if I remember it correctly, if the committee disapproves, then (according to Judge Iftikhar Choudry ruling) it has to satisfy the Court of its reasoning.

The final decision is still with the judges. Judges and lawyers select next judge. At least judges must not be involved. It is an incestuous and opaque process, like electing the pope.

All of these judges, Law Minister, Attorney General, and Bar Council are NOT representatives of people.

It is possible there is some other undercurrent present on this affair. Pakistani lawyers organizations (Bar Councils, Bar Associations) are split into various groups, some supporting the govt and some opposing it. (That is always true regardless of the govt.) Current Bar Council leadership does not see eye to eye with the govt.

With Justice Gulzar (considered by some eminent lawyers to be establishment guy) nominating her twice, and Law Minister Farogh Nasim & AG Khalid Javed (both of PTI) supporting it, but Bar Associations opposing it, AND Qazi Faez skipping the two meetings, I wonder if politics is playing a role in it.

I hope she will be a fair judge. I don’t know much about her merit. I hope she is not any party’s nominee.

It is indeed a historic opportunity for women‘s right and their empowerment. It would be a shame if it is hijacked for some political mission.

Just my opinion!

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Justice Qazi Faez did NOT participate in the voting both times the matter came up before JCP. Ayesha Malik got 5 votes in favor, but 3 votes in opposition.
Reason for opposition by Bar Council: Appointment is a violation of principle of seniority"

The Pakistan Constitution states that a Supreme Court judge nominee is not eligible unless he (she) is:

A citizen of Pakistan who:
has for a period of, or for periods aggregating, not less than five years been a judge of a High Court (including a High Court which existed in Pakistan at any time before the commencing day); or
has for a period of, or for periods aggregating not less than fifteen years been an advocate of a High Court (including a High Court which existed in Pakistan at any time before the commencing day).

There is no mention of the "principle of seniority" in the Constitution.

Here's a Dawn report on the SJC vote:

Lahore High Court Justice Ayesha A. Malik’s nomination was secured by a majority of five to four during a heated JCP session that lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, senior puisne judge Justice Umar Ata Bandial, former judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem and Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan supported Justice Malik’s candidature — who is fourth in the seniority list of the Lahore High Court.

However, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Akhtar Hussain opposed the selection.


It is worth noting that on Sept 9, 2021, the JCP did not reach a decision on whether to nominate Justice Malik or not. Four of the eight members; Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, former judge Dost Mohammad Khan and PBC representative Akhtar Hussain had opposed the idea of her appointment to the apex court, whereas the CJP, Justice Bandial, Farogh Naseem and the attorney general weighed in, in her favour. At the time, Justice Isa was out of the country and therefore could not attend the meeting.

Despite the strike call issued by the PBC — which had earlier announced its opposition to Justice Malik’s proposed elevation — the protest by lawyers was quite muted and very unlike the earlier protest by the legal fraternity on Sept 9. In fact, cases continued to be heard in routine at the Supreme Court as well as the Lahore and Islamabad high courts.

Rashid A. said...

On the debate about the new judge:

Both sides have a point:

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Both sides have a point"

Americans who opposed slavery abolition, women voting rights, affirmative action, diversity mandates, gender equity, civil rights legislation and various social programs have always justified their positions with reasons to make themselves appear righteous.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s first #woman #SupremeCourt #judge #AyeshaMalik sworn in. Harvard-educated Malik, 55, now sits on the bench alongside 16 male colleagues at the country’s highest court. #gender #equality #female via @AJEnglish

Pakistan has sworn in Ayesha Malik as its first female Supreme Court judge, a landmark occasion in a nation where activists say the law is often wielded against women.

Malik, 55, attended a ceremony in the capital Islamabad where she now sits on the bench alongside 16 male colleagues at Pakistan’s highest court.

“It’s a huge step forward,” lawyer and women’s rights activist Nighat Dad told the AFP news agency. “It is history in the making for Pakistan’s judiciary.”

Malik was educated at Harvard University and served as a high court judge in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore for the past two decades.

She has been credited with rolling back patriarchal legal mores in her Punjab province jurisdiction.

Last year, she outlawed a deeply invasive and medically discredited virginity test used on women who reported being raped or sexually assaulted.

Women in Pakistan struggle for justice in rape and sexual assault cases and the test was seen as a way for investigating authorities to discredit victims by casting aspersion on their character.

Malik’s elevation to the apex court of Pakistan may clear the way for more women to enter the historically conservative and male-dominated judiciary of the Muslim-majority republic.

“She has broken all barriers in the judicial system and it will allow other women in the system to move forward,” said lawyer and women’s rights activist Khadija Siddiqi.

“I hope this will lead to more women-centric decisions by the judiciary in the future.”

But her appointment has been mired in controversy for the past four months, with claims she jumped a queue of more senior male candidates qualified for the post.

Earlier this month, the Pakistan Bar Council staged a strike to protest against Malik’s nomination.

Riaz Haq said...

Victory for #Women’s Rights in #Pakistan. New law against #sexualharassment that increases protections for women at #work has passed parliament. It expands on existing legislation from 2010, which had been criticized for being too narrow in scope. #metoo

Pakistan’s Parliament Approves New Workplace Harassment Bill

A new bill that increases protections for women at work has passed Pakistan’s parliament. The bill expands on existing legislation from 2010, which had been criticized for being too narrow in scope. The new law, which was enacted earlier this month, specifically confers protection to students, domestic workers, and employees in informal workplaces. Women’s rights activists have welcomed the amended legislation for addressing multiple forms of harassment and for including language about protecting employees from retaliation. Some actvists have called on Pakistan to ratify the International Labor Organization’s Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190) as a next step in eliminating gender-based harassment in the workplace.

Riaz Haq said...

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the country’s central bank and top #banking regulator, has directed all banks to employ at least 20% of #women in the workforce by 2023. #internationalwomensday #gender #finance
- Newspaper - DAWN.COM

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has directed banks to employ at least 20 per cent of women in the workforce by 2023.

Gender diversity is a must for economic development and inclusion of women in the financial system, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Dr Reza Baqir said on Monday at the launch ceremony of Asaan Digital Account (ADA).

The SBP in collaboration with Bank Alfalah, Standard Chartered Bank and UBL, hosted an event titled ‘Asaan Digital Account: Breaking Barriers’ on the eve of International Women’s Day.

Dr Baqir said that through Roshan Digital Account, the country has received about $3.5 billion during one and half years which is more than the foreign direct investment and the loans given by the International Monetary Fund.

Dr Baqir expressed confidence that ADA will break the barriers in financial inclusion of women by offering faster, cheaper, efficient and convenient solutions for meeting their requirements.

ADA is a digitised solution for opening a full-service bank account from anywhere, at any time, through smartphones or computers with only a CNIC and no other documentation requirements.

The governor lauded the contributions of women in various fields and stressed that women’s empowerment is the key to socio-economic developments in the country. He said that gender gaps do not allow women the same freedom to avail themselves opportunities, rights and obligations in all walks of life as compared to men. However, International Women’s Day encourages us to pause and reflect on the systemic barriers that limit women in their pursuits. He stressed the need to reflect and renew the sense of ambition, and transformative possibility around gender equality in the financial services space.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s Bismah Maroof radiates the power to inspire change in #cricket. Pakistan’s captain is back playing in the #Women’s World Cup, having brought her 6-month-old daughter Fatima with her. #ICCWomensWorldCup2022 #NewZealand #InternationalWomensDay

It is more than 33 years ago since Neneh Cherry swaggered around the Top of the Pops stage in big white trainers performing Buffalo Stance with the fierce energy of a woman who was having a fine old time and wanted everyone to know about it. Around her neck hung a huge medallion and she wore a golden bustier and matching jacket. But it wasn’t her outfit that was the talking point at secondary school the next day – but the seven-month pregnancy bump that stuck proudly out of her Lycra miniskirt as she lip-synched along.

It was the first time many of us had seen a pregnant woman being, well, visible and certainly the only time we’d seen one looking so sensationally cool. Allegedly, a journalist was daft enough to check with Cherry that it was safe for her to go on stage in her state of pregnancy, to which she sighed: “It’s not an illness.”

It was footage of the Pakistan captain, Bismah Maroof, holding her six-month-old daughter Fatima at the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand that instantly brought back memories of that Thursday night watching Cherry. Although Maroof was dressed in her pine-green Pakistan tracksuit and had her hair pulled back in a sportswoman’s ponytail, she radiated the same power to inspire change.

Seeing female cricketers with their children is not unknown, and there are eight mothers playing in the current World Cup – Maroof, the New Zealand captain, Amy Satterthwaite, and her wife, Lea Tahuhu, West Indies’ Afy Fletcher, Australia’s Megan Schutt and Rachael Haynes, and Lizelle Lee and Masabata Klaas of South Africa – but it is practically unheard of on the subcontinent, where marriage and/or childbirth is usually the end for a cricketing career.

A fantastic article by Annesha Ghosh in The Cricket Monthly, looking at motherhood and cricket, summarises that only three of the 81 female cricketers contracted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are married. Maroof, then, is an outlier, not only leading her country but showing that motherhood does not have to spell the end to sporting ambition.

Maroof tells Ghosh that even during her own career, some of her teammates have had to give up the game: “Batool [Fatima], Nain [Abidi], Asmavia [Iqbal], Qanita [Jalil] and several others – they were all Pakistan teammates of mine who either couldn’t resume cricket for a long time after marriage or had to leave it altogether for good.”

However, the increased professionalism of the game over the past few years, and Maroof’s own pregnancy, nudged the Pakistan Cricket Board, during Wasim Khan’s spell as chief executive, into a maternity leave policy. This gives women a year’s paid leave (and men a month) plus shared costs of a support person to help with childcare – in this case Maroof’s mother, who has been seen cuddling Fatima in the stands.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian media on World Bank Report Reshaping Norms: A New Way Forward 2022

Does development mean more women in work? Yes in Pakistan but not India, says World Bank study
In India, women's participation in workforce fell after per capita income passed $3,500, says study published in World Bank's South Asia Economic Focus. Experts cite 'patrilineal trap'.

New Delhi: It’s generally assumed that economic development and women’s participation in the labour force go hand in hand. However, a World Bank study has found that the relationship is more complex in South Asia — particularly in India — than previously thought.

Published in April this year in the World Bank’s South Asia Economic Focus, Spring 2022, the study, titled ‘Reshaping Norms: a New Way Forward’, found that economic development corresponded with a rise in women’s participation in the workforce in some South Asian countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, but only up to a point in India.

The study took into consideration Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based on purchasing power parity (PPP) from 1985 to 2019. PPP is the rate at which one country’s currency would have to be converted into another’s to buy the same amount of goods and services.

It found that female labour force participation (FLFP) — the percentage of women currently employed or unemployed actively looking for work — varies from country to country in South Asia. The study also found that in India, FLFP fell after per capita income surpassed $3,500.

The South Asian countries included in this particular analysis of the study were India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Maldives.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s women continue international return

Hopeful return of Pakistan
The women's game has a relatively short history in the South Asian country with their national team formed in 2010. After years of rapid development, an eight-year hiatus saw progress stall.

Since June 2022, however, the women’s game has been re-ignited across the country. The PFF wasted no time in re-organising their national team, sending them to last September's SAFF Women's Championship before they traveled to Saudi Arabia at the start of this year. For Head Coach Adeel Rizki, their impressive showings upon a return to international football came as a timely boost.