Data generated in Population Census 2017 the total population of Pakistan is around 207 million. Thereby, with a total of 105 million registered voters, according to Election Commission Pakistan (ECP), in all four provinces and FATA Pakistan went into election 2018. Of this total voters 44 percent were female voters, making participation of the female population vital for the validation of any elections results.
Further, breaking down these numbers into provincial counts; 24, 518 million women are registered in Punjab, followed by 9, 199 million in Sindh, 0.6 million in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1.5 million in Balochistan, 0.8 million in FATA, and 0.3 million in Islamabad Capital Territory. Thus, the new voters’ lists indicates an increase in number of female voters; 2.94 new women were added to voters’ list in Punjab, 0.75 million in KPK, 0.7 million in Sindh, 0.21 million in FATA and 0.14 million in Balochistan.
Pakistani Election 2018: Th country witnessed better female participation in the elections 2018
These numbers and the general increase in female voters indicates the importance of female participation that is also reflected in Pakistan’s election law which states that at least 10 percent of voters are supposed to be female, a compulsory condition, for the validation of elections in any given constituency.
Thus, with all these measures Pakistan went into election 2018, promising a better than before female participation this time around.
Women as Candidates in Election 2018
In this general election around 1,691 women candidates filed their nomination papers; these included 436 candidates wishing to contest for National Assembly seats, and 1,255 for Provincial Assemblies. The willingness to participate, for women, has increased from the 1,171 filed nominations in 2013. In this upward trend Punjab took the lead with an increase from 231 female nominees aspiring for provincial assembly seats in 2013 to 664 this year, according to Election Commission data. This particular trend indicates a three times increase, which is a great achievement in itself, for female participation in Pakistani elections. Similar increase was noted in National Assembly’s female candidates filing for contestation of election this year; which increase from 123 to 236.
The willingness to participate, for women, has increased from the 1,171 filed nominations in 2013.
Following suit was Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where a total of 88 women filled their papers for National Assembly, an increase from 78 last elections, and 262 for the provincial assembly compared to 229 in 2013. With promises of a better and gender balanced assemblies both; national and provincial these two provinces went into general elections 2018.
Political Parties’ Role in Balancing the Gender Inequality of the Election 2018 Process
Election Act 2017 bounds political parties to nominate on general seats of both national and provincial assemblies, at least five percent of tickets. Resulting in an increase from last election in women contesting on general seats of provincial and national assemblies. However, scrutinizing these female candidate lists from across all parties indicates that it’s only a formality that they have half heartedly fulfilled in order to comply with this particular clause of the law and international obligations in this respect.
The leading three parties of this election; Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – allocated tickets to the mere minimum of the number specified by the clause, barely touching the compulsory five percent, to women – pointing to the fact that it was all in mere fulfillment of the law than balancing the gender gap forever present in the electoral process of Pakistan.
National Assembly candidate list indicates PPP submitted a total of 176 candidates’ nomination papers of which 12 were women, PTI out of a total of 244 candidates 14 were women, and the winners of last election PML-N had 5 women candidates out of a total of 125 candidates. Similar trends were observed in provincial candidates announced by these three leading parties.
In KPK a total of 88 women filled their papers for NA, an increase from 78 last elections, & 262 for the provincial assembly compared to 229 in 2013.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, for instance, PTI has not even fulfilled the minimum of what the law specifies by awarding four tickets to women out of a total of 97 candidates. In Balochistan the party awarded one ticket to women out of the total of 40 candidates.
Elected Women in KPK Assembly as A Result of Election 2018
According to ECP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter a total of 65 candidates have submitted their nomination papers for KPK assembly’s women reserved seats. For national assembly reserved seats for women a total of 26 candidates submitted their nomination papers.
In the second phase of the electoral process Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) submitted a list of 15 women candidates who are a priority for the reserved seats in the KPK assembly. Reserved seats for women in KPK assembly is 21. The PTI leader, Imran Khan, appointed the party’s regional president Shah Farman to submit the priority list to the provincial election commission.
The list includes: Nadia Sher, Maliha Aftab, Ayesha Naeem, Momina Basit, Dr. Sumara Shams, Rabia Basri, Dr. Ayshia Asad, Sajida Haneef, Somi Falak Naz, Aysha Khushnood, Sitra Afreen, Zeenat Bibi, Asia Khattak, Maria Fatima and Nadia Ambareen Khattak.
PML-N proposed a total of 15 candidates in their priority list for KPK assembly that included: Sobia Khan, Ruqaia Hina, Naseem Akhtar, Shaheen Habibullah, Jamila Paracha, Farah Khan, Raheela Suhail, Saleema Ikram, Faiza Malik, Amna Sardar, Bibi Jan, Uzma Waheed, Shazia Jadoon, Nighat Bibi and Syeda Sonia Shabbir. Followed by PPI who submitted a priority list proposing 10 women candidates on women reserved seat in KPK assembly.
These candidates included: Nighat Yasmin Orakzai, Shazia Tehmas, Mehr Sultana, Humaira Yasmeen, Shazia Naz, Tahira Bibi, Maryam Miankhel, Naseem Riaz, Qazi Musarrat and Naseem Begum. For NA reserved seats, the PPP proposed nine women candidates in the priority list including Nelofar Babar, Farhat Ameer Muhammad, Dr Saima, Fauzia Inam, Ashbar Jadoon, Syeda Yasmeen Safdar, Noor Sehar, Quratul Ain Naqvi and Nagina Khan.
With the new election law of allocating at least 5 percent of the general seats to women and recent active role of women in election 2018 both as voters and candidates or involvement at different stages of election process and campaigning trends seems to be headed in the right direction of decreasing the gender gap in this whole process.