Balochistan is the least developed province of Pakistan. Calling it the “land of backwardness” would not be a misnomer as millions of people,especially the women, making up half of the population, are the bigger and more miserable victims. Their plights are numerous being the most suppressed and aggrieved section of society. This province has the highest rate of female illiteracy, female unemployment, maternal mortality, and gender disparities.As the elections are approaching in Pakistan, the nation is brimming over with enthusiasm,but the women of the Balochistan are in the depths of despair regarding any prospect of change. Women in Balochistan are subjected to extreme exclusion in every sector and have a very little space in the political arena. The political exclusion is one of the many contributing factors that restrain women in a perpetual state of backwardness. Gender inequality in political domain of Balochistan is a serious concern. There is a gap between male and female voters in our country in general,but the situation is worst in Balochistan.Recently, a report by Balochistan Women Network(BWN) and Health and Rural Development (HARD) highlighted that2.6 million out of total 5.86 million women in the province are, unfortunately, deprived of the right to vote and millions will be unable to cast votes owing to non-registration. In essence, of every 100 women, 27 are not registered to vote. This fixable problem just requires a desperate mobilisation of NADRA to register female voters. Despite the dismal statistics, the news caused no reaction in the political circles as the leaders remained nonchalant about it. Women of Balochistan seek entry into politics while gender parity is at rock bottom in the region. If gender parity in the electoral business remains at rock bottom, then democracy in the province will never be more than a pipe dream. Merely conducting the election does not rectify the problematic situation of the province when half of its population is divested of the fundamental right of casting a vote.No women candidates to vote for and no women voters — such is the situation in Pakistan’s largest provinceThe rights of women are enshrined in the constitution of our country. There are no legal barriers to women’s political engagement. In practice, however, there are numerous impediments in the way of women of Balochistan for active political participation. Taking part in the electoral process is more than just casting votes. The political involvement ensures the endowment of all rights, which they have been deprived of for ages. No votes from women also lead to no votes for women candidates in the election. Participation of women as voters in a high voltage campaign would substantially increase the strength of women candidates in Balochistan. There is a firmly entrenched political monopoly dominated by men, which needs to be broken in, somehow, through the more active participation of women as candidates in elections.In the 2013 elections, there were twelve female candidates in the field for provincial seats. Except for two, all the candidates contested independently.Only one, Rahat Jamali, made it to the provincial assembly.The absence of women in the parties’ candidate lists has remained a consistent feature over the past election cycle in Balochistan. The increased number of women to run as independents candidates,however, indicated the apathy of provincial political outfits towards them. This time, the number is relatively high as compared to the last election as political parties showed more flexibility by placing women in the run — wonders will never cease.Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) has outnumbered other parties by fielding more women for general seats of provincial and national assembly. Balochistan Awami Party (BAP)has done a bit better by fielding Zubaida Jalal, once the favourite education minister of Musharraf’s cabinet, for NA-271 Kech. Nevertheless, Balochistan, as compared to other provinces, ranks as one of lowest in terms of women nomination for general seats in elections. The main reason behind this has been a conception that women have a slim chance of winning. So that being the case, the political parties, specifically provincial based, play it safe by not nominating any women activist for general seat competition.There are 11 reserved seats for women in the provincial legislature to correct the gender imbalance, but these seats barely scratch the surface with regards to addressing the gender exclusion problem in provincial assembly.It is known to all that the way these are filled is not up to the mark and is a matter of public concern. The indirect modus operandi of the election on reserved seats with not a well-described criterion of the eligibility causes nepotism and favouritism. The surge in reserved seats falls short of expectation because the quota system only benefits a definite section of women, who enjoy familial ties with political parties, rather than deserving ones who have roots in public.This instance can realise the sense of rampant misogyny in the province.No woman was inducted into the cabinet of last provincial government as they were deemed unfit for that.Even the portfolio of women development was entrusted to a male (Mir Izhar Khosa), which was an attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole.This outrageous neglect apportions blame to all political parties, which were part of the coalition government.As far as one knows, all nationalist political parties(of Baloch and Pashtun) claimed themselves moderate. Promises made by them in their manifestos on gender issues remain clichéd and are not kept intact after the hustings.There is a dire need for result-oriented measures, efforts and obligations to be laid out by indigenous political parties and provincial governments to encourage fielding more women in a real battleground,i.e. general elections.The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished in Daily Times, June 24th 2018.