Women stepped out to vote even from most conservative areas in Pakistan

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News Analysis |

General Elections are being described as fair and transparent by the winning party PTI, while the parties who could not achieve a majority are dubbing it as dubious, however a positive aspect of the elections was women’s increasing participation in the voting process.

Women came out to cast their votes in the most conservative areas of Pakistan. There were women from villages in Sahiwal, lower Dir and other parts of the KPK where many women casted their votes for the first time in their entire lives. According to media reports, this trend is encouraging and positive for the strengthening of democracy in the country.

Pakistan is working to ensure that women participate in the political process both as voters and candidates to make the democracy inclusive and genuinely representative.

The increased women participation may be due to some changed laws. The Elections Act requires the ECP to declare an election null and void if women’s turnout in a constituency is less than 10pc of its total polled votes. On Wednesday, candidates and local administration on ECP directives ensured at least 10pc turnout of women voters in the districts notorious for barring women from voting.

Read more: Elections 2018: A massive political exercise

The measures encouraged women voters not only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Dir Lower but also in a village of Punjab’s Sahiwal district to visit their respective polling stations and cast their vote. Women of Jahan Khan Village (111/9-L) in the National Assembly constituency of Sahiwal (NA-147) also created history by voting for the first time in any general election for which the administration, civil society organizations and media could be credited.

There are 4,022 registered voters in the village and out of them 1,822 are women. Moreover, District Election Commissioner Rana Ghaffar said the election commission had categorically told village elders and candidates that in case there was less than 10pc turnout of women, the ECP would declare election results null and void.

Women came out to cast their votes in the most conservative areas of Pakistan. There were women from villages in Sahiwal, lower Dir and other parts of the KPK where many women casted their votes for the first time in their entire lives.

Women’s Participation and Representation in Politics in Pakistan from 1947 to Onward

The representation of women in the National Assembly of Pakistan has been varying since 1947 to date. The constitutions of 1956 and 1962 provided for six (6) reserved seats for women in the national assembly, while the 1973 constitution reserved ten (10) seats for women for a period of 10 years from the commencing day of the constitution or the holding of the third general election to the National Assembly, whichever occurred later.

Later these seats were increased to twenty (20) in 1985. However, these seats lapsed and elected governments of both Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could neither revive these seats nor increase their number. These seats have been revived and substantially increased to the number of sixty (60) by the government of General Pervez Musharraf in 2002. The 1956, 1962, and 1973 constitutions all provided for reserved seats for women at both the National and Provincial Assemblies.

District Election Commissioner Rana Ghaffar said the election commission had categorically told village elders and candidates that in case there was less than 10pc turnout of women, the ECP would declare election results null and void.

The allotment of seats ranged from three to ten percent and was affected only through indirect elections by the members of the assemblies themselves. In 1956 a 3 percent quota for women in parliament was approved. The 1956 constitution under Article 44(2)(1) provided for the reservation of 10 seats for women for a period of 10 years, equally divided between East and West Pakistan. The 1973 constitution provided for 10 seats for women for 10 years or three elections, whichever occurred later. These seats were increased to 20 in 1985.

Read more: Women vow to defy men who banned their vote in Pakistan…

Reservations lapsed in 1988 after three general elections (1977, 1985 and8 1988) as provided for in the Constitution. Pakistan is working to ensure that women participate in the political process both as voters and candidates to make the democracy inclusive and genuinely representative. The question is how new government will address the question of women’s political empowerment in Pakistan and implement the policies it makes in this regard.


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