Political parties did not field many women and minorities on general seats because of the seats reserved for them in the local governments elected in the recently held elections in the province, Democracy Reporting International (DRI) team leader Hassan Nasir said on Tuesday.
He was speaking at the launch ceremony of the DRI’s report on the recently held local government elections.
“Women candidates on general seats were less than 0.003 per cent of all candidates,” he said. He said allocation of reserved seats had prevented mainstreaming of women in electoral politics.
“Allocation of reserved seats is a temporary measure to improve political participation of marginalised groups. Allocation of a large number of reserved seats in the local government can prove counter-productive,” he said.
Nasir condemned the Election Commission of Pakistan for reinforcing gender stereotypes in allotment of election symbols like stilettos to women.
Other issues raised by him were delays in accreditation of election monitoring teams and restricted access to polling booths.
On media coverage of elections, he said more air time could have been dedicated to the coverage of counting and tabulation of results. He also urged the audience to work together to ensure that women could exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to franchise.
During discussion on the report, some participants expressed scepticism about the findings, asking how well if the authors could substantiated them with data. The criticism was dismissed by Nasir. He said the report was based on rigorous observation by monitoring team.
The findings referred to were from the Punjab Local Government Elections Assessment report.
Speaking on the occasion, ECP joint secretary Attaur Rehman said that the local government elections in the Punjab and Sindh had yet to conclude. He said the ECP could not initiate its post-election review in the provinces at this stage. He said review committee had been tasked with the job in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Defending indirect elections to reserved seats in the Punjab, he said the decision had been taken in view of the lessons learned from the administration of elections in the KP.
Centre for Human Rights Education director Samson Salamat dismissed the explanation. He said logistical issues could not be presented as an excuse to deprive women and minorities of a direct election to seats reserved for them.
He urged the authorities concerned to revise the decision and to allow direct election on reserved seats.
Local Government and Community Development Department Director Najeeb Aslam said that despite some shortcomings the elections had been held in a smooth manner.
Party-based elections and higher participation of women and minorities were among the positive outcomes of the activity, he said. He stressed the need for removing problems in the delimitations and for educating voters and polling staff about the election process.
Strengthening Participatory Organisation’s Salman Abid stressed the need for making the ECP an autonomous body.
The issues covered in the report are legal framework, delimitations, election administration, voter registration and candidate nomination and scrutiny processes, campaigning, polling day and results announcement, dispute resolution and participation of women, minorities.
It noted that elections were competitive but the legal framework evolved for the electoral activity was inadequate. It said results were not made available to the public in a timely manner. It also found problems in the delimitations.
It proposed amendments to election and delimitation laws and development of a stringent monitoring system for the polling day.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2016.
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