ISLAMABAD: Political parties are bound to award tickets to at least five percent women candidates on general seats of the federal and provincial assemblies and other elected bodies.
Section 206 of the Elections Act says a political party shall make the selection of candidates for elective offices, including membership of the Parliament and provincial assemblies, through a transparent and democratic procedure and while making the selection of contestants on general seats shall ensure at least five percent representation of women candidates.
The provision was incorporated in the Act as a result of consensus among all parliamentary players to increase representation of females, which constitute almost 49pc of the national population.
However, in Pakistan’s milieu females don’t generally prefer to take part in direct elections although there are women activists, who have been keen to vie for the general seats. Hardly ever more than half a dozen women have directly returned in any parliamentary polls.
In constituencies where women will be awarded tickets as required by the Elections Act, the political parties will be required to not only run their campaigns because of certain handicaps of such females to do vigorous canvassing but also provide them financial assistance for the electioneering.
Currently, the women’s biggest presence in the assemblies comes from their election on special seats as the Constitution reserves 22pc seats for the females in the national and provincial assemblies.
At present, a total of sixty women lawmakers figure in the National Assembly after having been elected on special seats - three from Balochistan; eight from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP); thirty-five from Punjab; and fourteen females from Sindh. There are as many as 372 directly elected members of the National Assembly apart from sixty women on reserved seats. There is no female representation on special seats from the federal capital and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Similarly, the Punjab Assembly has a total of 66 women lawmakers elected on special seats; the Balochistan legislature has eleven such females; the KP Assembly has 22 indirectly elected women; and the Sindh legislature has 29 females.
Section 9 of the Elections Act also says if, from facts apparent on the face of the record and after such enquiry as it may deem necessary, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is satisfied that by reason of grave illegalities or such violations of its provisions or the rules as have materially affected the result of the poll at one or more polling stations or in the whole constituency including implementation of an agreement restraining women from casting their votes, it shall make a declaration accordingly and call upon the voters in the concerned polling station or stations or in the whole constituency as the case may be, to recast their votes in the manner provided for by-elections.
If the turnout of women voters is less than ten percent of the total votes polled in a constituency, the ECP may presume that the women voters have been restrained through an agreement from casting their votes and may declare polling at one or more polling stations or election in the whole constituency void. It may order filing of complaint before a court of competent jurisdiction against persons who entered into such agreement.
The ECP may exercise these powers before the expiration of sixty days after such publication; and, where it does not finally dispose of a case within the prescribed period, the election of the returned candidate shall be deemed to have become final subject to the decision of an election tribunal on a petition, if any. While exercising these powers, the ECP shall be deemed to be an election tribunal to which a petition has been presented and shall regulate its own procedure. Any person aggrieved by a declaration of the ECP may within thirty days of the declaration prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court.
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