ISLAMABAD: As it is mandatory for every political party to field at least 5pc women candidates on general seats in the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies, Aurat Foundation has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take legal action against political parties which have violated this clause.

The parties which have been identified include Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP), Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Balochistan National Party (BNP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) name is not mentioned as the party has been deprived of the symbol.

PPP leader Farhatullah Babar categorically denied the allegation, claiming that the PPP fielded more than 5pc of female candidates on general seats. He said even in the 2018 elections, PPP fielded over 5pc candidates. “I doubt that other parties have violated the condition of the ECP as every party has to submit a certificate in the ECP that it has fielded more than 5pc women candidates,” he said.

“A majority of the political parties, in order to meet the condition of the ECP, field women candidates on seats on which they cannot win. PPP is the only party which has several female candidates who can win the general seats on their own. They include Nafisa Shah, Azra Fazal Pechuho, Shazia Marri, Faryal Talpur and others. Even Fahmida Mirza used to win on a general seat when she was in PPP,” he said.

Aurat Foundation claims PPP, PML-N, JUI-F, ANP failed to field 5pc women nominees on general seats

Mr Babar said there was a need to start a debate that the winnable seats should be given to women so that there would be more representation of women in parliament. He said that, even after their nomination on reserved and minority seats, women usually get 18 to 23pc of seats in the assemblies. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb could not be reached for her comment.

The Aurat Foundation after reviewing at least eight political parties contesting elections for the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies presented a bleak picture of women’s participation in elections.

In the National Assembly, the analysis shows that PPPP, JI, ANP, TLP, JUI-F and BNP have not met the requirement of awarding at least 5pc party tickets to women on general seats. In the Punjab Assembly, the findings claimed that PML-N, PPPP, JI, MQM and TLP have not met the requirement.

In the Sindh Assembly, the findings claimed that the MQM, ANP and TLP did not meet the requirement of awarding at least 5pc party tickets to women on general seats. In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, the findings claimed that PML-N, MQM, JI and JUI-F had not met the requirement.

In the Balochistan Assembly, the findings claimed that PML-N, MQM, PPP, ANP, TLP, and JUI-F did not meet the requirement of awarding at least 5pc party tickets to women on general seats.

It may be noted that Section 206 of the Elections Act 2017 states that political parties shall award at least 5pc general seat tickets to women in each assembly. The punishment for violation of any provision of the Elections Act 2017 by the political parties is provided in Section 217 of the said law.

“...if not complied with by the political parties, they cannot be given election symbols, and cannot contest elections as a political party. It cannot be presumed that political parties are not aware of this obligation for two reasons: firstly, that all parties submit an affidavit to ECP that they have allotted 5pc tickets to women and; secondly, because most of the mainstream parties…fulfilled this requirement in General Election 2018,” the letter stated.

“We request the Election Commission of Pakistan to take notice of this violation…because the 5pc restriction is already a low ceiling, and if parties continue to show disregard to women in providing them opportunities to enter the mainstream, it would mean denying half the population of their due fundamental rights under the Constitution of Pakistan,” it stated.

Aurat Foundation has lodged a complaint to ECP, requesting it to take cognisance of the matter with immediate effect and take strict action under Section 217 and other provisions of laws, against the political parties who have violated the provision of the Election Act 2017 and the Code of Conduct for Political Parties.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2024

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