The preamble of the Constitution states “whereas it is the will of the people of Pakistan to establish an order therein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality”.
Article 18 of the Constitutions states “Subject to such qualifications, if any, as may be prescribed by law, every citizen shall have the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation, and to conduct any lawful trade or business”.
The overarching framework in the context of economic and social equality is provided by Article 25 which guarantees the equality of all citizens before the law and entitles all citizens to the equal protection of the law.
Article 26(1) of the Constitution states “In respect of access to places of public entertainment or resort not intended for religious purposes only, there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth. (2) Nothing in clause (1) shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.”
Thus constitutionally speaking there is no discrimination between men and women in the economic and social sphere.
The main administrative machinery in Pakistan in the economic sphere consists of the Ministry of Finance and the Planning Division. There is no administrative organ of the State devoted exclusively to ‘social life’ of the country. However the Ministry of Women Development could be said to performing some of the functions envisaged by the Convention in Article 13. Insofar as cultural and recreational activities are concerned, the concerned administrative entity in Pakistan is the Ministry of Minorities, Tourism, Youth, Culture and Sports.
Situation on the Ground
Women in Pakistan have the same rights de jure as men to social and economic benefits.
Salaried women and men are entitled to certain family benefits that can be claimed either by the husband or the wife. These benefits include: housing allowance, transport allowance; medical allowance and social security benefits. These benefits are available to all salaried people, regardless of gender.
On the education side, government schools for both girls and boys are free of cost or change nominal fees. Higher education is heavily subsidised in government institutions and there is no discrimination between men and women.
Taxation, Pension and Gratuity.
Within the taxation system in Pakistan, there is no direct or indirect linkage between taxes/tax credits and nature or size of the family. Pension, gratuity and social security arrangements are based on deductions from the employees’ salary and contributions by employers. There is no gender discrimination in these arrangements.
Apart from allowances that form part of every salary (and that accrue to both men and women), there is no system of “family benefits” or family assistance as is understood in the European context. There is no provision of grants, educational grants or tax rebates based on the number of children.
Ownership of and Access to Assets.
Article 23 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that: “every citizen shall have the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property in any part of Pakistan”. Pakistani women own property, jewelry and other assets and have their own bank accounts. Data on the percentage of women compared to men who own property is not available. The Ministry of Women Development has requested the Statistics Division to examine if the census forms and the questionnaires for Pakistan Integrated Household Survey etc. could be appropriately amended to get this information.
Bank Loans, Mortgages and Credit.
Credit is available to both men and women in Pakistan. Financial institutions such as the Zarai Taraquiati Bank of Pakistan (Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan), the First Women Bank Limited, other commercial banks and a number of public financial institutions extend credit to women.
First Women’s Bank.
The First Women Bank Limited was established in 1989. It is a unique financial institution – a combination of a commercial bank & DFI, catering to the socio-economic needs of Pakistani women - to encourage and assist them in promotion and running of trade and industry and practice of profession. The bank has 38 branches, primarily concentrated in urban and semi-urban areas. It has financed a number of medium sized industries owned and set up by women. The bank requires that any enterprise seeking loans from it should have 50% ownership by women. Women also make up all professional staff of the bank.
Non-traditional banking services provided by the FWBL include advisory and consultancy services relating to investment and project identification, identification and development of markets, promotion and sponsoring of work of female entrepreneurs and product display centres for female entrepreneurs. In the majority of cases and for loans up to Rs. 25,000 no collateral is required from the applicant except two personal guarantees. For loans exceeding Rs. 25,000 the bank requires tangible collateral.
The bank has so far disbursed Rs. 6.67 billion as credit and has helped 25,226 women entrepreneurs to establish their businesses. Portfolio-wise break-up of the bank’s advances is 9.6% as microcredit, 77% to small and medium enterprises and the rest to corporate clients. Nineteen thousand five hundred and twenty five microcredit loans to women have so far been disbursed.
Poverty alleviation is a high priority of the Government of Pakistan. Amid growing recognition that the incidence of poverty was increasing in Pakistan, the Government of Pakistan adopted a comprehensive strategy in November 2001. The resulting Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) articulates a comprehensive framework including policies for rural development, gender issues, employment and the environment. Rural development program is embedded in the targeted interventions pillar of the strategy. The approach also incorporates a more focused human development strategy that recognizes the central role of the provinces and local governments in achieving human development goals.
The government is committed to raising its budgetary expenditures at least by over 0.2 percent of GDP per annum starting FY 2001-02. This reflects a significant shift from past budgetary performance when anti-poverty public expenditures declined by an average of 0.25 percent of GDP per annum, during 1995–2000. Ensuring that these expenditures rise over the medium term while fiscal adjustment also takes place is a significant challenge. The government will be spending Rs. 161 billion on pro-poor expenditures during the current fiscal year 2003-2004.
In addition to the government's anti-poverty expenditures a significant amount of public resources are aimed at providing social protection to the poorest segments of society, particularly women. Through recent government initiatives such as Food Support Program (FSP), Khushhal Pakistan Program (KPP), and land transfers the government has significantly increased assistance to those most in need. Social safety transfers by the government are divided into three broad categories, which include: cash transfers, in-kind transfers, and public-works programs. Government Programs in this regard are Zakat, Food Support Program (FSP), Employees' Old Age Benefits Institutions (EOBI), and micro-credit disbursements by Khushhali Bank (KB), Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and the Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan (ADBP).
TABLE 13.02 PRO-POOR NON BUDGETARY EXPENDITURES (RS IN MILLION)
While the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper did place some emphasis on the gender dimension, the Ministry of Women Development felt that it would appropriate to conduct a gender audit of the document. An examination of the PRSP was therefore conducted and a number of suggestions were made to make the document even more responsive to the specific needs of the female population of the country. One outcome of this examination was that a pilot programme on gender responsive budgeting has been tentatively included in the PRSP.