There is only one woman candidate among over 400 contestants in the fray for the June 26 elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Elections for 41 general seats of AJK Legislative Assembly are scheduled to be held next Sunday but doubts are being cast on the authenticity of electoral rolls with over three million total registered voters.
There are only 1,260,766 registered women voters among 3,017,816 registered voters: the percentage of women is far lower in electoral rolls than population and demographic statistics showed. Population census figures showed that the ratio of women was more than their male counterparts.
Azad Kashmir officials claim a literacy ratio of 70 per cent and women here are as literate as men.
“People mostly avoid registering their women family members as voters. Things are changing now but this is still an issue,” a senior official of the AJK Election Commission said.
The total number of seats in the AJK legislative assembly is 49, of them 41 members are elected directly, while there are five women, one seat each reserved for technocrat, ulema and overseas Kashmiris.
Naureen Arif is contesting from LA-24 Muzaffarabad-1 on Pakistan Muslim League-N ticket. She was elected as MLA for outgoing assembly and became first women elected on a general seat in 2006.
Elected as independent she later joined ruling Muslim Conference before recently joining PML-N.
“There are certainly some social pressures on women here as well, like the rest of Pakistan. We have a male dominated society and the same is the case here,” said Nasreen Aziz, a leading women activist who belongs to Bagh district.
Rizwana Attique, the wife of incumbent AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, said women in Azad Kashmir were facing some limitations mainly because of the conservative nature of society, adding that the government had always encouraged women to enter into mainstream politics.
According to the electoral list prepared last year, there are a total of 240,407 registered voters for four seats of Mirpur district – 126,077 male and 114,330 female.
For three seats in Bhimber district, there are a total of 252,506 registered voters, 130,766 male and 121,740 female voters. For five Kotli district seats, there are a total of 475,437 registered voters – 246,252 male and 229,185 female voters.
There are 255,241 voters for three seats in Bagh district but data regarding male and female voters is missing.
Similarly the same data is also missing for LA-23 Neelum, which has a total of 89,155 voters.
For the four Poonch district seats, the total number of registered voters is 327,303, among them 171,023 male and 156,280 female voters. In two other seats, the total registered voters are 175,419, of them 91,201 male and 84,218 female.
For six seats of district Muzaffarabad total number of registered voters is 455,481. Of them 240,372 are male and 215,109 female.
The situation is the same on six Jammu Valley refugee seats and six Kashmir valley refugee seats.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.
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