K-P’s women: Breaking barriers, one step at a time

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s male-dominated society, the glass ceiling has always been too high. But if not entirely shattered, some women have managed to crack it.

Among those who managed to crack the high ceiling over the last ten years are Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Irshad Qaisar. Two of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) best female jurists. The duo, appointed to the Peshawar High Court (PHC), by the Awami National Party (ANP), made history a few years ago when they heard over seventy cases together.

“Never before in the history of the court has there been a bench comprising of two female judges,” said late Barrister Bacha, shortly after the hearings in 2013.
Justice Hilali has served on the bench while some of the most defining cases were being heard. She was on the bench that instructed the government to issue a warning to the US government on the unwarranted drone strikes in North and South Waziristan. Shortly after that, the justice heard the petitions challenging the 2018 general election.

To ANP’s credit, K-P also got its first female ombudsperson on the party’s recommendation. The party presented human rights activist Rakhshanda Naz for the position, only to be rejected by the government. It took the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government another seven years to finally approve the appointment of Naz as the provincial ombudsperson, making her the first female officeholder. Naz came to office in 2019 with one agenda, and that was to prevent harassment of women in the public offices.

“Women do not need to suffer anymore. All they need to do is send us a message on Facebook, and we will take it from there,” she once said.

Women seem to be making advances on all fronts. In the political arena, K-P now has a female deputy speaker in the provincial legislature. Dr Mehar Taj Roghani is the first woman to claim the deputy speaker’s chamber in the provincial assembly.

In her maiden speech before the provincial lawmakers, she claimed to be a unifying figure, who wanted to treat all members, regardless of their political orientation equally, and fairly.

“I would like to act like a mother in the house. I want to treat everyone equally,” Dr Roghani said in her first address to the provincial assembly. The credit this time went to the PTI coalition government for giving K-P its first female deputy speaker.

With a degree in medicine, Dr Roghani vowed to eliminate gender discrimination in the legislature. “Women can play an important role in peace and prosperity of the region,” she said. Dr Roghani later moved to the upper house of the parliament, where she is currently serving as a Senator.

No matter how high the ceiling, over the last ten years, these women have emerged as strong contenders and they have worked against.