ISLAMABAD: Despite the welcome addition of a woman candidate contesting independently from Bajaur Agency, the overall number of women candidates contesting on general seats of the National Assembly (NA) has stayed much the same since the 2002 election.
Even in the ranks of mainstream political parties which champion equal rights and participation of women, the number of women candidates contesting in the upcoming general elections has remained unchanged or, worse still, gone down. According to details of candidates filed by eight mainstream political parties, there is no significant increase in the number of women candidates in the 2002, 2008 and 2013 elections.
Moreover, the two main religious parties — Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) — have maintained their tradition of totally ignoring women candidates on general seats and, like the previous two elections, no woman candidate has been awarded a party ticket by these two parties.
This year, 36 women candidates were awarded party tickets on 272 general NA seats. There were 34 women candidates for these seats in 2008 while the number in 2002 election was 38.
Even though the PPP once again has the highest number of women candidates on general seats, the number has dropped from 15 in the 2008 elections to 11 women candidates for the May 11 vote. In 2002, the PPP had fielded 10 women, only one less for this year’s election.
Only two parties — the PML-N and Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — can claim to have gradually increased the number of women candidates in their ranks.
The PML-N has awarded tickets to seven women candidates for the May 11 election while it had fielded six women in 2008 and four in the 2002 election.
Similarly, the MQM also nominated seven women on NA general seats. In 2008, the party had fielded five women while there were four women candidates for the 2002 election.
Only one party ticket for general NA seat was issued to Khushbakht Shujaat from the party’s stronghold in Karachi and Hyderabad, a seat she had previously secured in the last by-election. The rest were issued to women contestants from Punjab.
Meanwhile, the number of candidates from the PML-Q has reduced to four from eight women fielded by the party in both 2008 and 2002 elections. The party leadership justifies this reduction in number by arguing that they are contesting polls in fewer constituencies as compared to the previous two elections, owing to their seat adjustment with the PPP this year.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has awarded party tickets to only four women out of the 227 candidates it fielded for contesting general NA seats. The candidates include Hina Manzoor in Rawalpindi (NA-54), Wajiha Akram in Narowal (NA-116), Dr Yasmin Rashid in Lahore (NA-120), Marium Batool in Rahimyar Khan (NA-195) and Naz Baloch in Karachi (NA-240).
The PTI had boycotted the 2008 election while it had fielded two women candidates in 2002.
Two women are contesting from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa-based Awami National Party (ANP). They are Khurshid Begum from Kohat and Irum Fatima from Haripur.
PROMINENT CANDIDATES: Former NA speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza will try her luck for completing a hat-trick of winning the NA seat from Badin, her home constituency.
Besides the outgoing NA speaker, the two sisters of President Asif Ali Zardari — Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho from Nawabshah and Faryal Talpur from Larkana — will also be in the run for NA seats.
Former federal information minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan is contesting on two seats from Sialkot (NA-110 and NA-111). Meanwhile from Lahore, first-timer Bushra Aitzaz, the wife of the PPP’s legal wizard and Senator Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, is also in the run for the first time.
Similarly, former minister and PPP’s Samina Khalid Ghurki is also in the field on the NA seat from Lahore (NA-130). Meanwhile, for the NA seat from Okara (NA-144), the PPP has also awarded a ticket to Shafiqa Rao, the widow of Rao Sikandar Iqbal.
Former PML-Q MNA Sumaira Malik is contesting on a PML-N ticket from Khushab (NA-69) while her sister Ayla Malik is a PTI candidate but on a reserved seat. The PML-N has also awarded party tickets to former MNAs, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana from Chiniot (NA-88) and Saima Akhtar Bharwana from Jhang (NA-90).
Another former MNA Saira Afzal Tarar has also managed again bag a PML-N ticket from Hafizabad (NA-102).
In Vehari, PML-N stalwart Tehmina Daultana is contesting for the second time on NA-169. Another significant PML-N ticket-holder is Marvi Memon, who has preferred to contest the election on a general seat from Thatta instead of becoming a legislator on reserved seat.
The PML-N has also issued party tickets to former tehsil nazim of Tando Allahyar, Raheela Magsi, who is also the sister of former revenue minister Irfan Magsi.
A total of 64 women, mostly independent candidates, had contested the 2008 election on general seats from 60 NA constituencies — 47 in Punjab, seven in Sindh, two each in KPK and Balochistan and two in Islamabad.
In 2002, 57 women had contested the general election on 50 NA seats and out of them 13 managed to reach the House.