Forging New Ties

Jessica Zimerman

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During their two-day visit to Islamabad in June 2011, the Afghan delegates and their Pakistani peers met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Speaker of the House Dr. Fehmida Mirza. They also agreed on a plan for a regular, ongoing dialogue between Afghan and Pakistani women parliamentarians.
“Such a dialogue will open a new channel for building trust between the two countries,” said Guenter Overfeld, EWI Vice President and Director of Regional Security. “It will also give Afghan women politicians much-needed support at a crucial time.”
After being disenfranchised by the Taliban, Afghan women regained the right to hold office in 2004, but they still struggle to play a significant political role. Although women hold 68 seats in the Afghan Parliament, in part thanks to a constitutionally-mandated quota, they are often confined to “soft” issues like education and excluded from peace-and-security processes.
Participants called for women to take an active role in ongoing reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. “Women must be in the negotiations,” said Afghan MP and High Peace Council member Gulalei Nur Safi. “We do not want to lose the achievements that we’ve made in these ten years.”
Participants suggested that, to bolster their political position, Afghan women parliamentarians should revive the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, looking to the successful Pakistani model as an example of how this can be done effectively.
They also called for Afghan and Pakistani lawmakers to work closely on a range of security issues in the region, with an emphasis on fostering sustainable development and inviting private investment in the volatile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
In his meeting with the Afghan delegates, documented in the report, Zardari offered his full-fledged support for an ongoing dialogue. “Bringing together women of the region will make this region more tolerant, more peaceful and more secure,” he declared.

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