Elections 2013: Only six women candidates make it to National Assembly on general seats

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on May 17,

Islamabad – If it were not for the 60 seats reserved for women, Pakistan’s next National Assembly (NA) would have been an almost completely male affair as women representation on general seats suffered during the 2013 elections.

In results released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) so far, barring the few constituencies where elections were postponed or where re-polling is planned, only six women have been elected to the lower house of the parliament — a 66.6 per cent reduction from the 18 women Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) in the 2008 legislature.

According to ECP data processed by a nonprofit organisation, The Researchers, out of the 150 women candidates who had filed nomination papers for the NA elections from 111 constituencies across Pakistan, only six won the elections.

The Researchers is a nonprofit organisation that works toward community empowerment and women participation in decision making.

Three women candidates each from Punjab and Sindh won the NA elections on a general seat, according to ECP results analysed by The Researchers. No women candidates succeeded in winning a National Assembly seat from Khyber-Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan.

The three successful women candidates from Punjab — Sumera Malik, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana and Saira Afzal Tarar — all belong to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) while the three winning candidates from Sindh — Faryal Talpur, Fehmida Mirza and Azra Afzal Peechu — were contesting on a ticket from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Only 60 of the 150 women candidates were running from a political party’s platform while the rest were independent candidates, according to ECP data examined by the The Researchers.

But among the six women MNAs elected, four also completed their hat-tricks. Malik, Peechu and Mirza had all won from the same seat in the past two elections. PML-N’s Bharwana, who won this time from NA-88 Jhang, had won the past two elections from NA-87 on a PML-Q ticket.

Malik, who won by a margin of 38,253 votes, also changed parties to join the PML-N for the 2013 elections. Among the women, Talpur won by the largest margin — 64,438 votes — and Bharwana had the lowest winning margin — 18,152.

Among the women who lost, Samina Khalid Ghurki had been winning her NA-130 seat from Lahore for the past two elections but lost her seat to a PML-N candidate by over 50,000 votes this time. Similarly, two women candidates, Mehtab Akbar Rashdi of PML-F and Ghinwa Bhutto of the PPP-Shaheed Bhutto, lost to Talpur.

Provincial Assemblies

The overall number of women elected to provincial assemblies remained unchanged from the 2008 elections, according to The Researchers.

Only 10 of the 313 women who filed nomination papers from 213 constituencies will sit in the legislature for the next five-year term.

Out of the 10 women, eight belong to Punjab while one candidate each is from Sindh and Balochistan.

No woman won a seat to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in election 2013, according to ECP results processed by The Researchers.

All eight successful women candidates in the Punjab Assembly are from the PML-N. The one woman who won a general seat in the future Balochistan Assembly is also a PML-N ticket holder.

One PPP woman candidate, Saniya, won from PS-109 Karachi to be a part of the next Sindh Assembly.

Two Punjab assembly candidates — Nazia Raheel from PP-88 Toba Tek Singh-V and Naghma Mushtaq from PP-206 Multan-II — were re-elected from their constituencies.

Out of the 313 women candidates for provincial assembly seats, 115 were party ticket holders while the remaining 198 were independents.

Aazar Ayaz, Executive Director of The Researchers, said the data reveals that voters in Punjab voted along party lines rather than based on the candidates.

“The basic thing is that trend has changed,” Ayaz told The Express Tribune, “Women who had switched political parties since 2008 elections were able to gain more votes than they got in the previous elections.”

Aazar said the politics of electables and the removal of degree criterion for eligibility also affected the chances of women, such as former federal minister Hina Rabbani Khar, to be awarded party tickets. He said the security threats in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan also hampered chances of women candidates to actively run their election campaigns.

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