Update: This story had earlier reported that Sonia Ali Raza won the Punjab Assembly seat PP-123 from Toba Tek Singh. Ms. Raza lost the election on a recount, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The story has been updated to reflect this change.
Islamabad — Eight women politicians won themselves a place in the National Assembly through direct elections in 2018 and another seven won entry to provincial assemblies on general seats, according to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) data.
A record number of women candidates contested the 2018 elections for National Assembly general seats despite structural and socioeconomic challenges to women’s participation in Pakistan’s domestic politics.
Some of these women candidates succeeded in defying the odds set against them to get elected as Members of the National Assembly (MNAs).
The number of directly-elected women MNAs in 2018 is two more than the previous general election. In 2013, only six women were originally elected on polling day.
However, the number of women in the National Assembly on general seats for the 2013-18 term had increased to nine after several rounds of by-polls.
Among the eight women MNAs-elect, four are from Sindh, three are from Punjab and one from Balochistan.
Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) politician Zartaj Gul is one of the Punjab women MNAs. She won the National Assembly seat from Dera Ghazi Khan by securing 79,817 votes against former federal minister Awais Leghari who received 54,548 votes, according to preliminary statistics shared by the ECP.
It was Ms. Gul’s second time contesting in the general elections. She had previously lost the 2013 elections to a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate from the old NA-172 Dera Ghazi Khan constituency.
Ms. Gul will be a first-time MNA. As will be Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, who contested the elections from Narowal after her husband Daniyal Aziz was disqualified due to a contempt-of-court conviction. Mrs. Aziz ran on a PML-N ticket and received 106,366 votes to win, according to preliminary ECP data.
The Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) had the most number of successful women candidates for National Assembly general seats. Three of its women politicians remained victorious.
Nafisa Shah, who had previously been a PPPP MNA on reserved seats for women, won a general seat from Khairpur with 107,847 votes.
PPPP’s Shams-un Nisa was re-elected from her Thatta constituency with a landslide victory. She polled 152,691 votes or nearly 84% of the 182,484 valid votes cast in the constituency. Her nearest competitor received a paltry 18,900 votes, according to preliminary ECP data.
Alongside Mrs. Nisa, three other women won their re-election bids.
The PPPP’s Shazia Marri won by a margin of over 10,000 votes in her NA-216 Sanghar constituency. For the PTI’s Ghulam Bibi, who was elected as a PML-N MNA in 2013 but changed her political affiliation recently, the victory-margin was nearly 30,000 votes.
Bibi, who belongs to the Bharwana clan, succeeded with 91,434 votes from Jhang for her fourth consecutive stint in the National Assembly since 2002. She defeated Sheikh Waqqas Akram, a former MNA, and Muhammad Ahmad (Ludhianvi), the chief of the sectarian extremist group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat. Both Mr. Akram and Mr. Ahmad ran as independent candidates.
Also re-elected to the federal legislature is Fehmida Mirza. A former National Assembly speaker, Mrs. Mirza won the direct election from the same Badin constituency for the fifth consecutive time, according to news reports.
Her fifth victory was by a narrow margin but she survived a recount to retain her seat. She was previously with the PPPP but contested the 2018 elections on the ticket of PPPP rival Grand Democratic Alliance after her family broke off ties with the PPPP.
The final woman MNA-elect, Zubaida Jalal, is no stranger to the National Assembly either. Mrs. Jalal won the 2002 general elections to the assembly and served as the federal education minister. She contested the 2018 elections from the platform of the recently formed Balochistan Awami Party and won with 33,456 votes, according to the ECP.
Women in the provincial assemblies
The ECP counted 386 women candidates altogether for elections of the four provincial assemblies. (Media for Transparency was not able to independently verify this number.) In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, where 79 and 42 women candidates contested for provincial assembly general seats, not a single woman won the direct election.
In Punjab, however, five women candidates were successful against a total of 297 general seats.
Two PTI women politicians won on the Punjab Assembly general seats: Saleem Bibi from PP-96 Chiniot, and Ashifa Riaz from PP-122 Toba Tek Singh.
Both women are from political families.
Saleem Bibi is from the Bharwana clan and is the mother of Ghulam Bibi, the PTI’s MNA-elect from Jhang. Ashifa Riaz’s husband Riaz Fatyana is a former MNA and a three-time former Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) and she herself was an MPA from 2002 to 2007.
Sonia Ali Raza, daughter of deceased former Punjab Assembly member Makhdoom Syed Ali Raza, was declared the winner after polling day. However, her victory was challenged and a recount resulted in her defeat, according to the ECP.
Two independent candidates succeeded in getting a general seat in the Punjab Assembly.
Hameeda Mian, a former MPA from 2002 to 2007 and again in 2013, won from Mandi Bahauddin. She received 72,374 votes, according to the ECP, and overcame PTI and PPPP candidates in her Punjab Assembly constituency.
Journalist and writer Maimanat (Jugnu) Mohsin made a successful foray into Punjab politics with an electoral victory in Okara. She received 62,506 votes. Ms. Mohsin’s family owns the food company Mitchell’s and its fruit farms in Okara, and she is a non-executive director on the company’s board.
Only one PML-N candidate won a general seat to the Punjab Assembly. Naghma Mushtaq, who has previously also served in the provincial assembly, won from PP-223 Multan.
The two women who won direct election for the Sindh Assembly both belong to the PPPP. Faryal Talpur (PS-10) and Azra Fazal (PS-37) are sisters of former President Asif Zardari — the Peoples Party’s co-chairman — and have both previously been elected as PPPP MNAs.
While only 15 women altogther won National Assembly and provincial assemblies general seats, a few others lost after close electoral battles.
Women who almost won
Many of the women politicians gave a tough competition to men in their National Assembly constituences.
In Hafizabad’s NA-87 contest, the PML-N’s candidate and former federal health minister Saira Afzal Tarar lost by 8,165 votes. But 157,453 people voted for her. In all, she polled nearly 39% of the total votes cast in the constituency.
PML-N’s Shezra Mansab Ali lost to PTI’s Aijaz Shah by a margin of only 2,405 votes in Nankana Sahib. PTI’s Nadia Aziz got within 9,000 votes of the PML-N winner from Sargodha. Yasmin Rashid, also from the PTI, secured over 100,000 votes in Lahore but saw her rival edge out by just over 15,000 votes.
Altogether the women candidates who contested National Assembly elections on general seats received over 2.3 million votes, according to Media for Transparency’s analysis of ECP data.
The following visualisation shows the numbers of votes received by the women candidates who ran for National Assembly general seats. Click on the bubbles to read the candidate’s details or click on the Political Party labels on the right to highlight all candidates belonging to a party.
Note: One woman, Zeba Ehsan, withdrew her candidacy prior to the elections and is represented in the data with zero votes. The votes tally for Syeda Zahra Basit Bukhari for NA-184 is an estimate from an earlier record shared by the ECP because the ECP did not upload the Form 47 for this constituency on its website.