Where are the women on the EAC? An open letter to the PM

To: Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister
Mr. Asad Umar, Finance Minister
Mr. Arif Alvi, MNA and presidential candidate

It makes no sense at all that there are no women on the newly formed Economic Advisory Council. Surely even one woman economist must be included to advocate for Pakistan’s women in economic decisions. I urge the government to reconsider this decision.

If you do not include women at the highest levels of economic decision-making, not only will you strike a negative blow for gender inclusion in governance, but you will miss out on understanding the impacts of your decision on Pakistan’s female population.

A quick perusal of State Bank officials and LUMS professors reveals a gender imbalance at top levels of management/academia, which is not unusual in our gender-unbalanced society. But there are qualified women that should be included, if not on the main board, then as advisors.

So far this government has failed to include women in adequate numbers at the federal and provincial level. I would have expected an increase in gender equality, not a decrease, with all the talk of PTI being more progressive than its predecessors.

Including women is not about tokenism, unless you consider 52% of Pakistan’s population to be a token. No woman would have been selected without merit. But women MUST be included – and there are government quotas for women’s representation that should be followed. Otherwise, women will suffer under this government. Men must not be thought of as the default and women as the afterthought in our nation.

They may be thought of as a population to be ‘protected’ and ‘safeguarded’ but they will not be empowered by being disincluded from decision-making, governance, and power.

Research has shown that including women in governance, in economics and business, results in a more prosperous country than one which excludes women from these areas. According to research conducted by McKinsey, the global economy itself would grow by 26% if men and women were equal in working life. But one of Pakistan’s biggest economic challenges is how to bring more women into the work force. Who better than women on the EAC to represent them and advocate for their inclusion in the budget, in planning, and in resource allocation? Please heed the research and do the right thing.


Bina A. Shah

Karachi, Pakistan

NB: People have been asking me if there are any competent women at all in Pakistan to hold a position on the EAC. Here is a list of contenders, all qualified and at par with the current members of the EAC:

  1. Dr. Shamshad Akhtar – served as caretaker minister for Finance in June 2018
  2. Dr. Shahida Wizarat, Economist at IoBM
  3. Sadia Malik, Economist at York University
  4. Shahnaz Kazi Senior Economist at the World Bank
  5. Dr Zeba Sathar head of Pakistan’s Population Council
  6. Bilquess Raza at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad (deceased?)
  7. Dr Faiza Mushtak (IBA)
  8. Dr. Nausheen Anwar (IBA)
  9. Dr. Hadia Majid (LUMS)
  10. Dr. Shandana Khan Mohmand (Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex)
  11. Dr. Aliya Khan (QAU)
  12. Dr. Aisha Ghaus Pasha (PhD Leeds) – MNA and Phd in Economics from Leeds U.
  13. Dr. Rehana Raza (Cambridge)
  14. Dr. Monazza Aslam (Rhodes scholar)
  15. Dr. Saher Asad (LUMS)
  16. Dr. Freeha Fatima, Economist at the World Bank
  17. Dr. Reehana Rifat Raza, senior development economist at the World Bank
  18. Saadia Zahidi (WEF)
  19. Maniza Naqvi, World Bank
  20. Sima Kamil, CEO and President of UBL
  21. Tahira Syed, President of First Women’s Bank
  22. Noor Aftab, President International Women’s Economic Council
  23. Roshaneh Zafar of Kashf Foundation – microfinance and women’s empowerment
  24. Jehan Ara, President of Pakistan Software Houses Association
  25. Maheen Rahman, CEO of Alfalah Investments
  26. Ms. Musharaf Hai, Ex-CEO of Unilever and MD of L’Oreal


And let’s not forget who’s the head of the IMF – Christine LaGarde, who just happens to be… a woman.


(Thank you to Sehar Tariq and Erum Haider for their additions to the list (nos. 8-19) and Mushtaq Rajpar for 20. This list will expand as  I hear of more candidates.)

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