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Friday April 12, 2024

‘Mainstream parties have failed to award 5pc tickets to women’

By Our Correspondent
February 04, 2024

The Aurat Foundation, a civil society organisation striving to secure women’s rights in the country, has expressed serious concerns that some of the mainstream political parties have failed to award a minimum of five per cent of tickets to female candidates to contest the upcoming general elections on the general seats of the national and provincial assemblies as per the requirement of the Elections Act, 2017.

A vendor is displayed political parties flags attraction for customers outside his shop at Ganpat area in Provincial Capital, ahead of the countrys general elections 2024. — Online/File
A vendor is displayed political parties flags attraction for customers outside his shop at Ganpat area in Provincial Capital, ahead of the countrys general elections 2024. — Online/File  

The displeasure to this effect was conveyed by the Aurat Foundation in a letter sent on Saturday by its Executive Director Naeem Ahmed Mirza to the chief election commissioner (CEC) in Islamabad.

The Aurat Foundation said in the letter that it had undertaken an analysis of eight political parties contesting elections for the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies to see if the political parties had complied with the provisions of the Elections Act, 2017, safeguarding women’s rights.

“We are dismayed to find that some political parties have not observed the legal requirement under Section 206 of the said act and Section 6 of the code of conduct for political parties to award a minimum of five per cent tickets to women candidates on general seats,” writes Mirza.

On the other hand, some political parties complied with the said sections, which is a commendable gesture towards women’s political participation, he adds in the letter.

“We would like to bring the following facts to the knowledge, attention and immediate action of the ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan]: 1. Certain political parties have complied with Section 206 of the Elections Act, 2017, and have awarded the minimum required five per cent party tickets to women on general seats.

“2. Certain political parties have violated Section 206 of the Elections Act, 2017, and have awarded less than the minimum required five per cent party tickets to women on general seats, which requires strict legal action against these political parties as per Section 217(1) of the said act.”

The letter stated that political parties submit an affidavit during the process of election schedule that they had complied with the provisions of the Elections Act, including Section 206.

If they have not met the minimum requirement of awarding five per cent tickets to women on general seats, this should be considered a case of “false declaration of information”, Mirza pointed out.

The Aurat Foundation had written to the CEC on January 31 on this issue, requesting for an appropriate legal action, then an official of the ECP spoke to a foundation official and briefly discussed the issue the next day, reads the letter.

As regards the NA, the analysis shows that the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Awami National Party (ANP), the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Balochistan National Party have not met the requirement of awarding at least five per cent of their party tickets to women on general seats.

For the Punjab Assembly, the findings are that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the PPPP, the JI, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the TLP have not met the requirement of awarding at least five per cent of their party tickets to women on general seats.

For the Sindh Assembly, the findings are that the MQM, the ANP and the TLP have not met the requirement of awarding at least five per cent of their party tickets to women on general seats

For the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, the findings are that the PML-N, the MQM, the JI and the JUI-F have not met the requirement of awarding at least five per cent of their party tickets to women on general seats.

For the Balochistan Assembly, the findings are that the PML-N, the MQM, the PPP, the ANP, the TLP and the JUI-F have not met the requirement of awarding at least five per cent of their party tickets to women on general seats.

This is to be noted that Section 206 of the Elections Act, 2017, needs to be read with Section 6 of the Code of Conduct for Political Parties, which clearly states that political parties would award a minimum of five per cent general seat tickets to women in each assembly: the NA and the four PAs of Pakistan.

The punishment for the violation of any provision of the Elections Act, 2017, by the political parties is provided in Section 217 of the said act.

Unfortunately, the letter points out, political parties have shown apathy towards female politicians/candidates, and are not ready to mainstream their participation in the electoral process.

“This is to be noted that allotting five per cent general seat tickets to women is a legal requirement, and if not complied with by political parties, they cannot be given election symbols, and cannot contest elections as a political party,” reads the letter.

“It cannot be presumed that political parties are not aware of this obligation for two reasons: firstly, all parties submit an affidavit to the ECP that they have allotted five per cent tickets to women, and, secondly, because most of the mainstream parties, including the PPPP, the PML-N, the PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf], the ANP and even the TLP, fulfilled this requirement in the general elections 2018.” The Aurat Foundation urged the ECP to take notice of this violation of the Elections Act, 2017, and the code of conduct because the five per cent restriction is already a low ceiling, and if parties continue to show disregard for women in providing them opportunities to mainstream them into electoral processes, it would mean denying half the population of their due fundamental rights under the constitution.

The Aurat Foundation, through this complaint, requested the ECP to take cognisance of the matter with immediate effect, and take strict action under Section 217 and other provisions of laws against the political parties who have defied the provision of the Elections Act, 2017, and the code of conduct.

The letter stressed that it is high time that the ECP accords importance to women that they deserve, and enforces its laws on all political parties without any discrimination.