Given the roughly equal gender division among the population of Pakistan, a clear discrepancy exists amongst the voter population; approximately 11.67 million Pakistani women remain unaccounted for in these figures. The figure stood at 10 million before the last General Elections of 2013, and nothing has been done in the last four years to rectify this. The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Anwar Zaheer Jamali recently stated that the Prime Minister will be summoned if the population census does not take place and an amendment will be made in the constitution. He also said that holding the next general election without a population census is a joke with the people.
In 2012, the Election Commission Pakistan and NADRA collaborated with mobile phone companies to launch the world’s largest SMS campaign to date; which allowed voters to text message their CNIC number and receive a text message response with their name and electoral area as it appears on the roll. The SMS service was ultimately used by over 1.6 million Pakistanis to verify their voter registration details. Such initiative is sorely required before the next election, provided women have access to facilities to create their Computerised National Identity Cards first, without which they cannot register to vote.
ECP and NADRA must be appreciated for their efforts to increase political participation across the country. ECP staff have travelled door to door to verify voter registration details but the mindset that they have to work with is male members of the household refusing to divulge any information regarding their wives, daughters, or sisters, making it impossible for them to be registered. Women have no place in the political space and this must change through awareness for women to exercise their right to vote. Political parties could be encouraged to assist in the registration process – some are already looking to develop an outreach policy for their “women-friendly” policies. If we are to attain true democracy, half of the population cannot be left out of the decision making process.