Muhammad Qasim Mandokhail - Shares his story:
By profession, I am an advocate, and I run a law firm in Quetta city. I'm passionate about law, and I know how to get the job done. I'm hardworking and driven. I believe that others would describe me as quite open to facing daunting tasks and as someone who keeps calm during testing circumstances.
My father was a civil servant until he retired in 1999. Although my mother is illiterate, both always encouraged all of us to get an education. I'm happy that we all go to do that, including all my sisters.
Since I was small, my dream was to be a lawyer. I did my graduation and master’s in law from Punjab University. All my colleagues know that I'm a bit bold. They know my personality. So, when they challenge me on why I champion women's rights and the need for equal representation, I have no problem responding. I'm prepared to speak out. I have never regretted pushing on this issue. But for those educated only in Balochistan, that is more difficult. Having been educated outside made that easier. I lived in a society that was more open-minded than the one in Balochistan.
The person that inspired me to go into law were my teachers, Mr Aatir Rizvi and the late Mr Irfan Mazhar. He reminded me that becoming a lawyer is a profession for those who want to do their best for society.
Working on gender equality and empowerment issues is problematic in Balochistan, as it is a wholly male-dominated society. From minor to significant, every decision taken by a woman is not hers. Even education is controlled by men. All critical decisions are taken by fathers, brothers, or uncles. Later, these decision flow to husbands and sons.
To achieve better representation of women in our sector, we must convince their male family members. I'm sure that over a period, these male members will admit the fact that without education and fair job opportunity, it is not possible to survive. To some extent, they are now accepting that they must believe in gender equality. To give fundamental rights to women. I'm really speaking about Balochistan rather than Pakistan at large. It's a tribal area, and we face double standards. The elders say they appreciate the participation of women and acknowledge that they have fundamental rights. But when this question comes to their own homes, they neglect and suppress it. They may now allow women to get educated. However, there is still resistance to encouraging their female family members to get a job.
The statistics of women working in the legal profession speak for themselves. Approximately out of 103 judicial officers/ Judicial magistrate’s in Balochistan, and this shocks me, there are less that 20 female officers. And in the prosecution department, although there are different types of jobs, even less women hold any of these positions.
On a personal level, I can say that I always encourage my female student to come forward and take the judicial officer exams. To consider joining the prosecution department. I also deliver lectures on human rights, women rights, and harassment. I believe that we all have a basic responsibility to work for a better society. On a professional level, I currently employ few female staff members. They are internees as they are not yet fully qualified. But we always encourage them, and we value their work. As a leader, we must manage equal representation.
Concerning human trafficking, we need more women working across the entire criminal justice spectrum. We have strong trafficking laws, but we lack, for example, female magistrates who can record victim statements. We also need more frontline officers that are better trained to ensure that the quality of the investigations are better so that cases can be successfully prosecuted. We need to make space for more female officers. More opportunities need to be provided, so female officers can become role models.
Looking back, I think I have made a difference. Some of my female students are now judicial officers or prosecutors, and quite a few have become lawyers. I'm proud of my students, and I'll continue to contribute and champion them. In Sha Allah. I hope that one day my daughter will sit on my seat.
Every day people ask me why I'm working on these issues. The answer is simple. As a human being it's our responsibility, as a citizen of Pakistan it's our role to work towards gender equality.
Muhammad Qasim Mandokhail is an advocate of the High Court and an active member of the Balochistan Bar Council. He completed his B.Com, LL.B and LLM from Punjab University. He is a Founder and Partner at J & Q Law Firm based in Quetta. Mr Qasim also has an in-depth understanding of legislation concerning Trafficking in Persons. He is a Trainer with CHRS and works as a resource person with UNODC. He also contributed to the education sector as a visiting lecturer and a research supervisor of LLM students in different University College of Law and City School of Law at Quetta. He was a visiting lecturer at the National College of Law Lahore and Superior College of Law Lahore.