Women in Pakistan's elections

Women in Pakistan's elections


Eleni Patlaka

Pakistan Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence

With the upcoming elections in Pakistan, the media has turned its attention to an important issue in the democratic process - the role and rights of women. As they report, Pakistani political parties have included policies and initiatives that take gender into account and promote women's rights. However, problems remain for Bajaur & Dhurnal women, whose participation in elections as voters faces unique challenges. 

An analysis by Dawns' Pakistan shows that five Pakistani political parties, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) have added policies on women in their manifestos. In particular, the PPP aims to provide economic assistance and create social safety nets with an emphasis on equal distribution of resources between the sexes. Their focus extends to maternal health, family planning and promoting women's political representation through law enforcement and training programs. PML-N also covers issues such as economic development, legal safeguards, welfare, education and political representation (Irfan, 2024).

Furthermore, the PTI is willing to provide financial assistance and legal amendments for the protection and empowerment of women. Its agenda includes measures and initiatives for their social and cultural development, health and well-being, political participation, institutional reforms, access to justice, public participation and targeted measures against abuse and harassment. The IJ manifesto proposes a series of actions to improve women’s livelihood, with a notable focus on education, inheritance and workplace policies based on Islamic Sharia principles. Lastly, the MQM-P is keen to ensure impactful legislation, punitive measures against violence and discrimination and to raise public awareness through campaigns (Irfan, 2024). 

Despite great promises by political parties to empower women, discrimination and violation of their rights persist (Irfan, 2024). In particular, in rural and other marginalised areas, they are subject to tribal laws. Therefore, women cannot participate in elections because the men do not allow them. In fact, in some cases there are no women on the electoral rolls at all. As testified by Fatima Butt, a women's rights expert: "Men's consent is necessary for women’s decisions-making, regardless of their education or economic status” (AFP Dawn, 2024). The government's quota for women voters has forced political parties to take women's issues seriously. As a result, the parties in Bajaur are trying to maximise their participation in the electoral process so as not to jeopardise the election results (Dawn Correspondent, 2024).

In conclusion, the new agenda of the political parties is an important element of the women's position's improvement, not only as part of the electorate, but as equal members of society. In addition to financial support for women, the new government must also address other issues to ensure the security and well-being of women.

Sources and further reading:

AFP Dawn (2024). Educated women in Punjab’s Dhurnal barred from voting by husbands. [online] DAWN.COM. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1811549/educated-women-in-punjabs-dhurnal-barred-from-voting-by-husbands [Accessed 6 Feb. 2024].

Dawn Correspondent (2024). Parties, election candidates focus on women voters in Bajaur. [online] DAWN.COM. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1811492/parties-election-candidates-focus-on-women-voters-in-bajaur [Accessed 6 Feb. 2024].

Irfan, W. (2024). Gendering the vote: Political manifestos through a woman’s lens. [online] DAWN.COM. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1809488/gendering-the-vote-political-manifestos-through-a-womans-lens [Accessed 6 Feb. 2024].