Pakistan - looking beyond reserved seats

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is set to make history when for the first time five women will be contesting its upcoming elections on general seats. This is a positive and welcome development, but what does this really means in real terms? Five is a negligible number for the 49-member assembly. Of the nearly two million voters in AJK, nearly half the number of registered voters consists of women. With five seats reserved for women in the AJK Assembly, five more women contesting the polls on general seats still make for dismal representation of nearly half the population. Among the major national parties, the PPP has awarded tickets to two women, the PML-N has fielded one candidate and most disappointingly, the PTI has failed to field a single female candidate on general seats.
Our mainstream political parties often make tall claims regarding women representation and ‘women’s rights’ but the reality on the ground is starkly different with the reserved seats for women in our assemblies having increasingly become the beginning and end of their political participation.