The percentage of women voters was 46.3% for the 1988 elections. It decreased marginally to 46.1% for the 1990 elections, to 45.5% for the 1993 elections and to 44.5% for the 1997 elections. The percentage rose to 46.1% for the elections held on 10 October 2002.
Female voter turnout is generally thought to be less than the male voter turnout. A study based on 25% of the total polling stations in the 1990 elections revealed that 48% men and 30% women voters cast their vote. Another study based on voter turnout data from constituencies in Lahore (Punjab) during the 1993 elections indicated a 46.9% turnout of male voters and 40.4% turnout for women voters.7
As stated above, penalties exist for those who threaten or prevent voters from exercising their electoral rights. However women in certain areas of the country were prevented from doing so in the local bodies elections and the last general elections (October 2002). A complaint was filed with the Peshawar High Court, which ruled in March 2004 that women cannot be stopped from exercising their political rights. The Court however did not declare the previous elections void in constituencies where women voters were prevented from casting their votes.
The reservation of special quota for women in the legislature, in addition to the possibility of contesting elections on open seats, has been a regular feature of the political system of Pakistan as a form of affirmative action. The quota for women in the 1973 Constitution was for a specified period and ended in 1988 after the lapse of that period. Women could still contest elections on general seats. The percentage of women contesting elections on general seats of all candidates in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997, was 1.2, 1.8, 0.97, 1.0 and 2.0 respectively.
TABLE 7.02 Women Elected to the National Assembly (NA) and Provincial Assemblies (PAs) on General Seats since 1970