February 2, 2024

By Arshad Mohmand


 

As the February 8 general elections draw near, Ambreen Khan Hoti is visiting every house in her constituency, NA-22, presenting her election manifesto to win the support of voters. She is the founding president of the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI) Mardan and the sole female candidate for Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) in Mardan.

Contesting against 20 or so male candidates from NA-22, Hoti said that she does not have as many supporters. She believes that several political parties have allocated electoral tickets to their female members for constituencies where they face minimal chances of success against male opponents.

“All parties expect hard work from their female party members. But when women demand that their hard work and struggles they rendered for their party be rewarded, they are given localities where the female candidates are unknown,” she added, noting that female candidates are often given tickets for areas where women’s movement outside of their homes is fairly restricted, and outreach is difficult. “They do this to placate their female members as well as ensure they are out of the race.”

In the 2018 general elections, the TLP gave tickets to three female candidates from Mardan, who secured a total of 8,000 votes. This time, Hoti is their sole female candidate from the same constituency.

This year, out of a total of 4,273 candidates from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), only 136 are women, constituting 1.3 percent of the overall candidates from the province. For the National Assembly, 3,094 candidates are in the running, with 35 being women. Over 1,100 candidates are vying for positions in the provincial assemblies, including 101 women.

Samar Haroon Bilour of the Awami National Party (ANP) is participating in the general elections for the second time from PK-83. Having been elected to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly in 2018, she perceives that both men and women are provided with equal opportunities in the electoral process based on her past success.

“When there is a good political worker, whether male or female, the parties make no distinction when awarding tickets,” she said.

According to section 206 of the Elections Act 2017, all contesting parties must ensure at least five percent female representation when selecting candidates for general seats. This year, reportedly women constitute 11 percent of the total candidates contesting the general elections.

Advocate Sana Gulzar, who is also a member of the ANP, feels that many political parties awarded tickets to female candidates in areas where their voter bank is minimal.

“ANP granted Samar Haroon a ticket for a general seat, and we received overwhelming feedback because she has previously won elections” she explained. “Parties should allocate tickets to women in areas where they already have a voter base.”

In the 2018 elections, a total of 69 women were elected to the National Assembly, of whom 61 came in on reserved seats and the remaining eight won general seats. According to observers, the number of women contesting general seats is considerably higher this year, however, only a handful may see success.

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