ISLAMABAD - Only 170 women have got a chance to contest polls in the third phase of local government elections in Punjab though the registered number of their votes stands at around 8 million in 12 districts of the province.

The number of women contesting on general seats in the 12 districts is lesser than that took part in the polls held in Islamabad districts where 351 females participated in the exercise.

According to official figures released by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) yesterday, only one minority woman is contesting direct election for the slot of chairman from Jhang district where the number of registered female voters stands at 523,147. There is no Muslim woman in the district for the slot of chairman.

With 7.899 million registered voters in the 12 districts of the Punjab, only 90 Muslim and 51 non-Muslim women are in the race for general member seats for the same slots as compared to their male counterparts who are 5,096 in number.

Only 18 Muslim women are vying for the slot of chairmen and eight for vice chairmen as political parties could not find or avoided to give tickets to their female activists.

“This is ideal example of patriarchal mindset of political parties. Politicians don’t encourage women to represent the society, but want women to be voters only,” Aurat Foundation Director Advocacy Rabia Hadi asserted when asked.

She alleged even the liberal political parties were sidelining women in decision-making processes, adding no political party in the country was ready to award tickets to their women supporters. “They want women to cast votes only,” she said.

“It means that no woman will be able to win the top slots and women will continue to suffer even in the province that is being dubbed as literate Punjab,” Rabia said.

The LG elections will be held on December 5 on 12 districts in the Punjab, including Rawalpinid, Multan, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Sialkot, Narowal, Khushab, Jhang, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and Rahim Yar Khan.

Interestingly, in Rawalpidi where women voters are over one million of total 2.2 million, only two women will be contesting for the slots of chairman. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has not fielded any woman candidate for the position.

It is to be mentioned that former prime minister and PPP Chairman Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. But the PPP nominated only two women leaders for the slots of general members in the garrison district.

“We could not field any woman candidate for chairman. The ground reality is that we will lose by fielding female candidates,” Shuja Haider Naqvi, PPP Rawalpindi information secretary, told The Nation.

The official figures released by the ECP indicate that of the total 10.7 million voters in 12 district of the Punjab, only 170 women candidates will be in the race as against 37,099 male aspirants in the polls for all slots.

With 22,921 male candidates in the run for slots of general members of union councils, there are only 90 female candidates for the same positions followed by 51 women members from minorities.

So far as non-Muslim women are concerned, 10 of the 12 districts have not witnessed female aspirants for the slots of vice chairman, which establishes the fact that the polls will be a male-dominated exercise.

Meanwhile, a statement issued here said 430 male aspirants for the slots of general members of union councils have been elected unopposed while 15 male candidates for positions of chairman also got elected without contest.