Gender gap in electoral rolls in Pakistan had already been the second lowest in the world. It has worsened as the electoral rolls published this year shows that the gap has slipped to 10.4%. This electoral roll is based on the results gathered under a pilot project of the Election Commission of Pakistan. The project was recently carried out in 20 districts of the country to see things on the ground and identify the causes. The exercise shows that the main reason for the increased gender gap is that large numbers of females in these districts have failed to get their names registered in the voter lists due to the lack of CNIC. The major reason for this is obviously the low female literacy rate in the country. The ECP has enumerated other reasons too for this state of affairs. These reasons are valid. In rural areas, NADRA registration centres are located at uncomfortably long distances and village women find it difficult to understand the CNIC registration procedures. The ECP has listed socio-cultural issues and lack of awareness as other causes.
What lies at the bottom of all these negatives is the widespread general illiteracy. If women are unaware of the importance of exercising their right to vote, of how crucial it is in having a say in the governance of the country, their male family members too cannot be of help in this regard as they, in most cases, too are illiterate and so unable to assist their womenfolk. In view of this important drawback, the ECP has stressed the need for close coordination between NADRA ECP officials in order to narrow the voter gender gap. Officials of the two organisations should be sensitised in this respect. This is also necessary in view of Pakistan’s low ranking in the recent World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report. In the report, which also takes into account political participation, the country is at the 153rd place out of 156 states.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2021.