Elections 2013: In Islamabad, women voters could be game changers

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on May 11, 2013.

Islamabad – Women voters will have a significant say in deciding the fate of candidates contesting elections for the capital’s two National Assembly constituencies. But they appear to have made their voting decisions based on general problems facing the country rather than candidates’ positions about women empowerment.

A majority of Islamabad’s nearly 291,560 women voters, which make up for 46.3 per cent of the city’s total registered voters, seem determined to vote, even if on the eve of the general elections some of them were still undecided about the political party or candidate they will grant their stamp of approval.

A considerable proportion of women in the urban areas, including first-time voters in the 18 to 25 age group, are leaning toward the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI), evident from the presence of women at the huge PTI political gathering at Islamabad’s D-chowk on Thursday, the last day of electioneering.

“I personally don’t like Imran Khan too much but I think what he represents is good,” said Gul Umar, a housewife in Islamabad’s sector F-6 on Friday. “I will vote for the PTI on the basis that it is a better option than the other political parties.”

Umar’s point-of-view about Khan might be strikingly different from a majority of PTI followers, who seem to be developing a cult of the PTI chief.

But like some other PTI women supporters who spoke with The Express Tribune she said she was inspired by the party’s slogan of change and believed in the popular saying that people who do not vote cannot complain about the country’s future.

Irum Mahmood, a housewife shopping for groceries in sector G-9’s Karachi Company market, said she was going to vote but will make the final decision once she gets to the polling station on Saturday.

Like Mahmood, Rubina Shaukat of sector F-8 said she was undecided about who she would vote to power.

“I am definitely going to vote but there is some confusion in my mind about the final choice,” said Shaukat. But she said she would choose from one of the four major political parties in NA-48.

Mahmood said she had not reviewed each party’s position on women rights but will make her choice based on basic issues.

“Inflation, load shedding, water shortage, these are all women’s problems essentially,” she said.

Sehrish Rabbani, a student who said she was leaning toward the PTI for her vote ever, said she had not read each political party’s position on women rights but said she had considered what the parties had to say about solving the power crisis.

In Tarlai, a village on the outskirts of Islamabad, Shaheen Bibi said her family usually votes for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, but she might vote in favour of Jamaat-e Islami this time, a decision she has left till the Election Day.

In the rural areas, some women seemed to have given up on the political parties, too.

“All the politicians are corrupt and they do not care for the public once they are elected to power,” Mai Fareeda, a resident of Humak model town, said, before adding that she would abstain from voting on May 11.

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