World

Pakistan’s Electoral Reforms Boost Women Political Participation

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan at the UN General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan at the UN General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, September 21, 2016. Credit: Reuters

Lahore: Reforms to Pakistan’s electoral laws making it mandatory for political parties to allot 5% of their tickets to women candidates were approved on Tuesday by the federal cabinet, the country’s highest decision-making body.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, women are guaranteed seats through a quota system in the national parliament and regional assemblies in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

At present, 60 out of 342 seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, are reserved for women with a further 137 seats reserved for women in the four provincial assemblies.

However the current reforms will pave the way for more women politicians.

Women’s rights campaigners welcomed the move by the cabinet of ministers, headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but said the quota should be increased.

“Various studies have shown that women elected on reserved seats have done a good job in the legislatures. They have put up good human rights legislations,” said Nasreen Azhar, a founder member of Women Action Forum, a women’s rights organisation.

“But they are considered weak because they don’t have the backing of voters. Now things will improve but the quota should at least be 10%,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on phone from Islamabad, where her organisation is based.

Briefing media on the decisions taken by the cabinet, law minister Zahid Hamid said the electoral reforms were due to be presented before the National Assembly next month where they are expected to be passed.

Last month, the senate passed a law seeking a re-election in constituencies where women’s turnout is less than 10% in an effort to address disparities in the number of women who go out to vote in the socially conservative country.

(Reuters)