Political parties, in compliance with the 2017 Election Act, are required to allocate five percent of general seat tickets in assemblies to women. In the upcoming Feb 8 elections, ten female candidates are poised to participate, signaling a rise in women’s political engagement in Haripur, established by Sikh General Hari Singh Nalwa in 1822.
Observers note that 61.08 percent of women and 83.07 percent of men in the district are literate. In a total of 55 candidates vying for one National Assembly and three provincial assembly general seats, notable women contestants include Dr. Faiza Bibi Rasheed, Irum Fatima, and Dr. Shaista Khan.
Dr. Faiza, a gynecologist and provincial vice-president of Qaumi Watan Party, is contesting for the fourth time since 2008. Irum Fatima, the central vice-president of ANP and a social activist, is seeking election for the fourth consecutive time from PK-47 Haripur II. Dr. Shaista Khan, a PML-N nominee for PK-46 Haripur I, also runs a private hospital.
Fifteen women initially filed nomination papers, but five, including the wife of PTI leader Omar Ayub Khan, withdrew. Notable contestants in different constituencies include Rukhsana Shaheen of QWP, Sadia Nadeem of Rahe Haq Party, Shaista Naz of PPP, Saira Bibi (independent), and Ruqaya Bibi of JUI-F.
In 2018, eleven women contested in Haripur, and three in 2013. Dr. Faiza initially contested in 2008 as a PPP nominee, later becoming an MPA on a reserved seat. Begum Balquis Nasruminallah, a trailblazer in local politics, contested in 1985 but later served as an MNA on reserved seats until 1988.
Until 2008, no woman received an election ticket for general seats. Irum Fatima emphasized a changing trend, noting that well-off women are now getting tickets based on their political work. As an MPA from 2008-2013, she highlights achievements such as the University of Haripur, two women’s colleges, a Women and Children Hospital, and gas supply to six villages.
Dr. Shaista Khan, a PML-N candidate, expresses confidence in winning based on her extensive social work in the district.