Rights bodies express concern over failure of Pakistan's major political parties to allocate 5 per cent seats for women

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Islamabad, Feb 7 (PTI) Ahead of the general elections in Pakistan on Thursday, prominent rights bodies have expressed dismay over the failure of major political parties to allocate at least five per cent of their party candidates for women on general seats.

The legal requirement is set in Section 206 of the Elections Act 2017, the major statute that deals with all aspects of elections.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a statement on social media platform X advocated for a minimum requirement of women representation, with parties urged to take affirmative action to ensure that at least one-third of their candidates for general seats are women.

“In principle, this should be a minimum requirement, with parties taking affirmative action to ensure that at least a third of their candidates for general seats are women,” the HRCP, an independent rights body, said.

Till now there is no consolidated data from the Election Commission of Pakistan on the total number of women candidates fielded by the political parties in the February 8 polls.

The statement underscores the importance of gender parity in political representation, emphasising that increased women's participation is essential for the development of inclusive and representative governance.

HRCP welcomed the decision of the Islamabad High Court to request an explanation from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regarding the issue.

The move reflects a step towards addressing the systemic barriers that hinder women's meaningful participation in politics.

Aurat Foundation in a statement urged the ECP to ensure that all political parties allocate five per cent of tickets to women candidates on general seats in each of the provincial and national assemblies. Sharing serious concern about the delay in the publication of final lists of candidates by political parties, the organisation stated that compliance with Article 206 was a legal obligation for their eligibility for allocation of electoral symbols.

The foundation termed it a legal and constitutional requirement to safeguard the participation of women in electoral and political processes.

“If not fulfilled, parties cannot contest elections,” it added.

Appreciating measures taken by the ECP to protect women’s rights, the Aurat Foundation said it expected that the commission would ensure the allocation of 5 per cent of party tickets to women.

Earlier, the ECP had also urged political parties to ensure a 5 per cent representation of women on general seats for the upcoming general elections. The ECP spokesperson, in a statement, emphasised the collective responsibility of all political parties to contribute to a more inclusive and representative democracy.

According to him, political parties are required to submit a comprehensive list of both male and female candidates holding party tickets for general seats.

This call for action is rooted in the Elections Act, of 2017, which mandates a 5 per cent representation of women candidates in general seats. The move aims to address gender disparities in political representation and foster an environment where women actively participate in shaping the future of the nation.

However, political parties often use socio-economic constraints to meet the requirement as women are often barred in some conservative tribal regions from taking part in elections. However, this trend is reversing after the ECP took action in the previous elections.

In a historic move, the ECP declared the by-polls in PK-95 in 2015 as void for reason of disenfranchisement of female voters in conservative Lower Dir district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where women had not been allowed to cast votes in any election since 1985.

Despite hurdles, a fair number of women get to the parliament due to seats reserved for them. However, in addition, they can also contest on general seats. PTI SH RUP RUP RUP

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