LAHORE - Although all the major political parties have fielded five percent women candidates on general seats, fulfilling the constitutional needs in the elections being held today, most of them are contesting on less important seats for the respective parties.

It is the constitutional requirement under Elections Act, 2017, to allot five percent of the total fielded candidates to women candidates. Thus 60 seats out of 342 are reserved for women in the National Assembly and 137 in the provincial assemblies.

Reportedly, out of total 107, 45 political parties have awarded tickets to females to fulfill the requirement, so there are about 305 females contesting on NA general seats, also including 60 women who are in the run as independent candidates. Many women are contesting on the provincial seats.

Over 50 small political parties have not awarded tickets to females while major parties have crossed the limit of five percent. The religious parties which earlier discouraged allotment of tickets to women have also fielded a few on the general seats.

After 1999 military coup, General Pervez Musharraf introduced 60 reserved seats for women in the National Assembly through Legal Framework Order. In 2002 elections, 57 women contested on general seats and 13 emerged victorious, so the NA had 73 women. It was 21.6 percent of the total seats.

In 2008, 64 women contested on general seats and 16 of them won, so 76 women reached the National Assembly. This number was 22 percent of the total house. Likewise, in 2013, out of 161 women contesting on general seats, only nine could win the election. Thus the number of women decreased to 63, which formed 20.5 percent of the house.

In the general elections 2018, Dr Yasmeen Rashid of PTI was going to face Maryam Nawaz Shartif in NA-125 (Lahore), a PML-N stronghold. But Maryam Nawaz stood disqualified as a result of the accountability court verdict in the Avenfield reference. Earlier, this seat fell vacant after former premier Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification in the Panamagate case. PTI’s Dr Yasmin Rashid had lost to former first woman Begum Kulsoom Nawaz in the by-election 2017. Dr Yasmeen Rashid is again in the field against Ali Pervez Malik of PML-N.

Former Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Shehla Raza was fielded by PPP against PTI leader Imran Khan from Gulshan-e-Iqbal Karachi. Shazia Marri is a candidate from Sanghar on NA seat under PPP banner.

Other famous women contesting on the National Assembly seats include former NA Speaker Fahmida Mirza of GDA, former state minister Saira Afzal Tarar of PML-N, Sumaira Malik of PML-N, Firdous Ashiq Awan of PTI, Sumaira Gul of PPP, Tahmeena Daultana of PML-N, Samina Khalid Ghurki of PPP, Zartaj Gul of PTI, Aysha Nazir Jatt (independent), Shamoona Ambreen of PML-N, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana of PTI, Anila Mehmood of MMA and many others.

The PML-N has awarded tickets to Neelam Walji, a Hindu woman, in Sindh for an NA seat. Dr Nafisa Shah, daughter of former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, is also contesting on PPP ticket for an NA seat from Khairpur, Sindh.

Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) candidate Nusrat Seher Abbasi is contesting against former opposition leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, from Sukkur. Ghulam Bibi Bharwana is contesting from Jhang on the PTI ticket.

Interestingly, Noshin Afshan, the only ANP candidate in Punjab from Jatoi, Muzaffargarh, is up against male candidates for a National Assembly seat.