October 12th, 2020 

By Ahmad Saeed


For the first time in the history of Lower Dir, a women’s open court was held by the local administration to resolve women-specific issues. Over 50 women participated in the meeting and demanded the establishment of a women’s police station and separate units for women at NADRA offices of the area.

The participants called for a special 10 percent quota of seats for women in the upcoming local bodies’ elections and appointing women photographers in the passport office. Shawana Haleem, Assistant Commissioner, issued orders for redressal of some pressing issues being faced by the women. The open court was held at a time when militancy in the area is rising again. Lower Dir was the stronghold of the Taliban during the Swat insurgency.

Last week, posters were pasted on city walls warning citizens against any cooperation with the government. Sumaira Shams, a local MPA of ruling PTI, says the provincial government organized a women-only open court in Lower Dir, a district where women had once been barred from voting in the general elections. Shams, a resident of the district herself, says the open court gave the administration an insight into problems faced by working women in the district. She believes that the women-only gathering happened for the first time in the district.

Shams says her party believed in women empowerment, adding that the district was initially thought of as a stronghold of religious parties but now her party had gathered a majority for the next elections. Women officials from police, social welfare, and health departments among others attended the open court to resolve issues faced by women in the district.

Shams says women reported some problems related to Baitul Mal which were resolved on the spot as officials had been taken on board. Shams says there were certainly other issues that she herself took responsibility for redressing them by bringing them before the provincial assembly and the government. The open courts have been regularly held on the instruction of the PTI chairman and Prime Minister Imran Khan, she adds. The reports about the open courts are sent regularly to the chief minister’s complaint cell, Shams explains. She says that timelines for resolution of issues are also set in the open courts.