Muslim reformers such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan brought reforms in education and tried to empower women through education. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had a positive attitude towards women. After the independence of Pakistan Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah tried to eliminate socio-economic disparities against women in the country.
Before 1947 there was a tendency for the Muslim women in Punjab to vote for the Muslim League and women were organized into large-scale public demonstrations.
Pakistani women were granted the suffrage in 1947 under the Pakistan (Creation of Pakistan) Ordinance, and they were reaffirmed the right to vote in national elections in 1956 under the interim Constitution. The provision of reservation of seats for women in the Parliament existed throughout the constitutional history of Pakistan from 1956 to 1973.
The democratic regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1970-1977) had liberal attitudes towards women. All government services which had been denied to women earlier were opened to them. About 10 % of the seats in the National Assembly and 5% in the provincial assemblies were reserved for women, with no restriction on contesting general seats as well.
Gender equality was specifically guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan adopted in 1973. The constitution says that “there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.” Additionally, it affords the protection of marriage, family, the mother and the child as well as encouraging “full participation of women in all spheres of national life.”
The martial law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1986) took some of the steps for women’s development
However, Zial-ul-Haq initiated a process of Islamization through discriminatory legislation against women. He banned women from participating and from being spectators of sports and promoted purdah. He suspended all fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of 1973 including the right to be free of discrimination on the basis of sex.
During her election campaigns in 1988, Benazir Bhutto voiced concerns over social issues of women, health and discrimination against women. She announced different plans to set up women's police stations, courts and women's development banks. She also promised to repeal controversial Hudood laws that curtailed the rights of women. However, during her two incomplete terms in office (1988-90 and 1993-96), Benazir Bhutto did not propose any legislation to improve social status of Pakistani women. She was not able to repeal a single one of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation laws which were protected both from ordinary legislative modification and from judicial review by virtue of the eighth constitutional amendment.
In 1997, the Nawaz Sharif government proposed a fifteenth amendment to the Constitution that would entirely replace the existing legal system with a comprehensive Islamic one and would override the “constitution and any law or judgment of any court.” The proposal was approved in the National Assembly (lower house), but, it was strongly opposed by women’s groups, human rights activists, and opposition political parties. They demanded that Hudood legislation must be repealed as it discriminates against women and conflicts with their fundamental rights.
The improvement of women's status was stated as one of the 16 goals listed in the Pakistan 2010 Program (1997), and is a critical policy document. Later on the document omitted women while listing 21 major areas of interests. Likewise, another major policy document, the “Human Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy” (1999), states women as a target group for poverty reduction but lacks gender framework.
The government’s highest priority is to address discriminatory laws against women, which includes
The government of Pakistan under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, Having the strong belief that the country could not make progress without providing equal opportunities to women which were half part of society, was taking appropriate actions to increase women rights to help them come on par with men. Nawaz Sharif, also being a state party to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), lead the government to take measures to ensure women’s rights as envisaged in the CEDAW where as it is still taking multiple reforms to enable women to participate in all walks of life.
Nawaz Sharif has started Prime Minister’s Youth Loan to help the youth of Pakistan build a brighter future for themselves, in which 50 percent of the scheme has been allocated to women to help encourage women to setup their own businesses and thus allowing women to have equal rights.
(Source: Women in Pakistan, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)