‘Gender Parity in Pakistani Politics: Progress and Roadblocks’

Gender equality in politics has faced both notable achievements and enduring obstacles in Pakistan, a nation with a multifaceted sociopolitical environment. It is believed that a democratic society must prioritize gender equality in politics. For many years, women’s rights have been the focus of heated discussion and agitation in Pakistan. Even with notable progress in social and legal systems, Pakistani women still confront formidable obstacles in their pursuit of equality. The need of equalizing women’s participation in politics, the economy, and public life is becoming more and more apparent in developing nations as they want to build their country. With the low representation of women in positions of decision-making, Pakistan still has a long way to go political power remains firmly the domain of men, except a small number of elite women with dynastic political backgrounds.

To eliminate the gender discrimination our nation’s fathers once remarked “Acquire education and participate in politics because you are the architects of the nation’s future” the statement represents the Quaid-e-Azam’s encouragement of women to enter politics; he had progressive ideas on the status of women in politics and society. Similarly, Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s poetry and prose, demonstrate a deep regard for women’s roles in society and their potential contributions to a variety of fields including politics, he said:

 “The existence of woman adds color to the picture of the universe It is her lyre that adds passion to the flame of life” “Zarb-e-Kalim” By incorporating these viewpoints, both political figures promote and assist Pakistani women’s active political engagement with men.

Women have always been involved in Pakistani politics; the country’s struggle for independence was greatly aided by individuals such as Fatima Jinnah. The political environment for women changed gradually but significantly after independence. In 1988 Benazir Bhutto’s appointment as prime minister the first female leader of a democratic government in a country with a large Muslim population marked a significant turning point. Her leadership marked a significant advancement in gender parity. Dr. Fehmida Mirza’s in 2008 appointed as first National Assembly’s female speaker were another momentous occasion and example of women empowerment. In the Similar way Sherry Rehman, who is currently a senator, she is a seasoned politician and diplomat who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and Hina Rabbani Khar as Pakistan’s first female Foreign Minister are a few example of equal status of women as men in Pakistan.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023, Pakistan ranks near the bottom, placing 142nd out of 146 countries in terms of women’s political participation and gender parity. Specifically, Pakistan is ranked 95th in the category of political empowerment. It was placed 36th for the number of years with female/male presidents of state during the last 50 years, 126th for women in cabinet roles, and 94th for women in parliament. In Pakistan, women constitute just 4.5% of senior, executive, or legislative roles, although making up over half of the population. Despite a quota system mandated by the Constitution that reserves 17% of seats in the National Assembly and the Senate for women, women’s political empowerment has not increased appreciably as a result. Female political participation is often limited to fulfilling these quotas, rather than based on merit, resulting in less impactful legislation and fewer women in key decision-making position.

Given the small proportion of female voters, candidates, and party members in Pakistani politics, it is a reality that there is a significant gender gap in the field. Distinguished organizations such as the Women’s Action Forum and the Aurat Foundation have led campaigns to improve women’s political engagement. These groups push for laws that are gender-sensitive and offer crucial assistance and direction to female candidates. Besides these efforts there is still a sizable gender gap in Pakistan’s electorate, The Election Commission of Pakistan reports those 64 million males (55%), 51 million women (45%), and 0.002% of transgender people are among the electorate.

Pakistani authorities have implemented a number of legislative steps to address the multifaceted issue, Gender discrimination is outlawed and equality before the law is guaranteed by Article 25 of the Pakistani Constitution. An important step toward achieving gender equality in politics was taken in 1956 when the first constitution was established, recognizing women’s ability to run for office and their right to vote. Women’s political rights were strengthened by the 1973 Constitution, which guaranteed equal opportunity and participation. The Constitution’s Article 17(2) gives every person the freedom to create or join political parties. Furthermore, Article 34 requires that “steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life,” highlighting the dedication to women’s broad involvement in national issues.

Under Pakistan’s parliamentary representation system, women are allotted 60 members in the National Assembly and 17 seats in the Senate, respectively, according to Article 51 of the Constitution. Moreover, Article 106 designates 168 seats for the province assembly, with Sindh having 29, Punjab having 66, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa having 26, and Balochistan having 11. For filling the gap under Election Act of 2017 all political parties are advised to give women candidates at least 5% of its general seats along with other measures aimed at advancing gender equality.

In addition to these initiatives, the overall state of women’s political engagement in Pakistan highlights significant obstacles, such as entrenched patriarchal norms, limited opportunities, and institutionalized barriers within political parties. Politics in Pakistan is often dominated by established political families and networks, which further complicates women’s access to political power. Media representations of female politicians frequently reinforce negative genderstereotypes, focusing more on their personal lives and appearance rather than their political achievements and intelligence. This biased coverage undermines women’s legitimacy as political leaders and negatively influences public perception.

To overcome these issues Pakistan should benefit from other nations that have effectively given women an enabling space in all areas of life and greatly aided in their growth in order to tackle these problems in the long term. The Statista Research Department study from 2023 states that Rwanda has 61.3% of its women in parliament, with Cuba coming in second with 55.7%, Mexico with 51%, UAE with 50%, South Africa with 45.9%, New Zealand with 44.3%, Pakistan with 20.2%, and India with 12.6%, which has a population more than five times that of Pakistan. At its peak, female representation in the Pakistani National Assembly reached approximately 22% during the period from 2008 to 2013.

It would need a multipronged strategy to remove societal and institutional hurdles that prevent women from participating in politics in Pakistan in order to attain gender equality in that field. Government agencies, political parties, the media, civil society organizations, and the global community must work together on this endeavor. Pakistan cannot continue toward achieving gender equality in its political environment unless it takes concerted effort and persistent commitment.

Arslan Mehndi Nekokara
Arslan Mehndi Nekokara
Arslan Mehndi Nekokara, Lecturer at GCUF Chiniot Campus, MPhil Political Science from Punjab University Lahore, Expertise in Global politics, Comparative Governments, World Constitutions, Political. Thoughts and theories. Email: [email protected]

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

China ready to work with Pakistan on Global South development initiative:...

ISLAMABAD: Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong’s on Sunday said China was ready to work with Pakistan to “actively implement” its Global South initiative...

Age is just a number