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Monday February 26, 2024

Fafen wants divisional quotas for women reserved seats

February 03, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has called for introducing divisional quotas for seats reserved for women in national and provincial assemblies to ensure the geographical representativeness of women and incentivize their greater political role in the areas where women’s participation is marginal.

The Fafen said that in disregard to the spirit of the reservation, i.e. greater representativeness, the existing method of considering the entire province as a single constituency for election on the reserved seats allows political parties to select candidates from any areas of their choice. This has resulted in an uneven distribution of quotas with few divisions and districts monopolizing the representation while a majority of districts and divisions remain unrepresented.

In the incumbent National Assembly, five out of 29 administrative divisions across the country are over-represented in terms of allocation of the women-reserved seats, eight are represented in proportionate to their population, while 16 have no representation at all. Currently, 57 per cent of the representatives elected on seats reserved for women in the National Assembly are residents of only six cities Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta as per their nomination papers.

Similarly, most representatives elected on women reserved seats of provincial assemblies in 2018 had mentioned residential addresses of provincial capitals in their nomination papers. As many as 59 per cent of women elected on reserved seats in the Punjab Assembly hailed from Lahore, 66 per cent in Sindh Assembly from Karachi, 73 per cent in Balochistan Assembly from Quetta, and 50 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly from Peshawar.

The Fafen proposed amending Sections 19 (2) and 19 (5) of the Elections Act 2017 to provide for administrative divisions as territorial constituencies in a province for the seats reserved for women under Articles 51 (3) and 106 (1) of the Constitution. Currently, these sections of the Elections Act 2017 merely reproduce the constitutional provisions of Articles 51 (6) (b) and 106 (3) (b). The Fafen believed that Article 51 (6) (d) read with Article 34 of the Constitution provides a legislative space to the parliament for allowance of divisional representation on reserved seats through an amendment in the Elections Act 2017 without requiring a constitutional amendment. While considering such a legislative proposal, the parliament should address the cases where the number of seats allocated to a province is less than the number of administrative divisions in the province.

It said the territorial constituencies within the province would allow the appointment of multiple returning officers for women reserved seats, enabling women to attend the nomination and scrutiny process closer to their homes as Section 51 (1) of the Elections Act 2017 required the ECP to appoint one returning officer for each constituency.

According to the residential addresses of the reserved-seat women legislators, 105 of 136 districts that existed at the time of the 2018 general elections had no women representative in the National Assembly. Province-wise, 23 districts in Punjab, 32 in Balochistan, 30 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 20 in Sindh have no representation of women on reserved seats in the National Assembly.