Barriers for women, attacks on candidates irk UN panel

Published February 7, 2024
A PTI supporter waves the party flag during a rally ahead of the general elections in Karachi, Pakistan on January 14, 2024. — Reuters/File
A PTI supporter waves the party flag during a rally ahead of the general elections in Karachi, Pakistan on January 14, 2024. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: As the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concern over the violation of law requiring political parties to award five per cent of tickets to women, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday sought reply from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over the matter.

Ahead of Thursday’s general elections, the UN human rights body appealed to the authorities in Pakistan to ensure a fully free and fair vote and to recommit to the democratic process.

In a statement issued in Geneva on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said election is a reminder of the barriers faced by women and minority communities, particularly the Ahmadis, in Pakistan.

“Despite 22 per cent of seats in the Nat­io­nal Assembly being reserved for wom­en, some political parties appear to have not met the legal quota of having five per cent women candidates on their party lists.

IHC summons ECP officials over violation of 5pc quota for women contestants today

Meanwhile, the chief justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought reply from the electoral watchdog on a petition seeking compliance of the statutory provision that binds a political party to award 5pc tickets to women to contest for national and provincial assembly seats.

The petitioner, Naveed Ahmed Mirza, cited the ECP as well as various political parties, including PML-N, PPP, ANP, JUI-F, MQM, TLP and BNP, as respondents.

According to the petition, the ECP did not ensure compliance with the statutory provision that made mandatory for the political parties to award 5pc tickets to women candidates.

The petition requested the court to summon the ECP and issue direction for compliance with the law.

The chief justice summoned the ECP officials for today (Wednesday) and directed the registrar office to send the copies of the court order to the ECP through special messenger.

The UNHCHR statement, released by spokesperson Liz Throssell, said, “Separate voter lists — as is the case for the Ahmadis — expose them to harassment and violence, despite the equal rights guaranteed to minorities in Pakistan’s constitution.”

Emphasising that all parties must be able to compete fairly, the high commissioner said, “We deplore all acts of violence against political parties and candidates, and urge the authorities to uphold the fundamental freedoms necessary for an inclusive and meaningful democratic process.

“We are disturbed, therefore, by the pattern of harassment, arrests and prolonged detentions of leaders of PTI and their supporters which has continued during the election period. We expect the higher courts will carefully review these conclusions in line with applicable due process and fair trial rights, and Pakistan’s wider international human rights obligations.”

Mr Turk said in the lead-up to vote, there had been no less than 24 reported instances in which armed groups staged attacks against members of parties.

Pakistan’s democratic gains over the past 15 years have been hard won in the face of security and economic challenges. Polls are an important moment to reaffirm the commitment to democracy, and to ensure the right to participation of all its people, the statement said.

Malik Asad in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2024


To find your constituency and location of your polling booth, SMS your NIC number (no spaces) to 8300. Once you know your constituency, visit the ECP website here for candidates.

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