The 2018 General Elections were fairly significant in terms of women’s political participation and representation. After these elections, it can be said that the Elections Act 2017 has achieved some success at bringing women out of their homes on polling day and addressed long-term reservations or demands of women rights activists. Section 206 of the Act binds political parties to provide at least 5 percent of their tickets to women candidates on the general seats; Section 9 of the Act has mandated Elections Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to nullify election results if women’s turnout is lower than 10 percent or if there are reports about forced disenfranchisement of women. It is important to note that this was the first time ever that the ECP has provided gender disaggregated data for voter turnout. There were a lot of hopes and expectations that 2018 elections will augment the unprecedented presence of women in the National Assemblies (NA), as a record number of as many as 171 women candidates contested on 272 NA seats across the country. Out of them, 105 women contested on party tickets while another 66 contested as independent candidates. Women MNAs and MPAs must be encouraged to contest on general seats in the next elections. By developing consensus and fielding women candidates against other women in the next general elections, a far larger number of women could get elected on general seats In the 2018 elections, PPP awarded 19 tickets to women candidates, followed by none other than the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which gave 14 tickets to women candidates. After them cam the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf with 13 tickets, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which gave tickets to 11 women. Though political parties fielded more women candidates this time, unfortunately only eight women could make it to the NA through the direct elections. Four of these women are from Sindh. Those who made to the NA are PML-N’s Mehnaz Aziz (NA-77 ) from Narowal, PTI’s Ghulam Bibi Bharwana (NA-115) from Jhang, Zartaj Gul (NA-191) Dera Ghazi Khan, PPPP’s Nafisa Shah (NA-208) from Khairpur, Shams-un-Nisa (NA-232) from Thatta, , Shazia Atta Maria (NA-216) Sanghar, GDA’s Fahmida Mirza (NA-230) Badin, and BAP’s Zubaida Jalal (NA-271) Kech. To my understanding, the Elections Act 2017 was enacted around a year before the elections, so neither the political parties were strategically prepared to field or launch women candidates on potential or winnable constituencies, nor the women candidates who could have developed their political constituency in shorter time. This can be proved from the fact that almost all major political parties fielded more candidates in the constituencies where they were in a weak position. Besides this, the political patriarchy within the party ranks and structures and the overall structure of patriarchy in the society do not encourage or accept women as candidates in the political arena. All those women who have pulled out seats in 2018 polls have strong political family backgrounds. No doubt, Pakistani women have a long journey ahead. Sad part of the story is that the number of women getting elected on general seats is decreasing in every subsequent Assembly; in 2008 there were 16 women, in 2013 there were nine women, and now in 2018 the number has further shrunk down to eight. Though, the five percent provision has not increased the number of women in the assemblies, it surely did increase the number of women who contested the 2018 polls. Besides this, those conservative and religious parties who would hardly think to award tickets to women candidates were also bound under the law to give at least five percent of their party tickets to women candidates. So, this is the right time for the political parties to take some serious steps to ensure that the five percent provision is practically, effectively, and meaningfully implemented. If the political parties are really serious about bringing more women candidates to the Assemblies then they have to take some practical steps to maximize the number of women. Women must be mainstreamed in party structures at all levels, from UC to district and provincial to national. Women candidates must be fielded in party strongholds so that women’s chances of winning are higher. Female party workers must be allocated funds so they can start developing their constituencies and developing political space for themselves. Women MNAs and MPAs must be encouraged to contest on general seats in the next elections. By developing consensus and fielding women candidates against other women in the next general elections, a far larger number of women could get elected on general seats. There is also a need to revise the reserved seat quota modality and develop stronger mechanisms to ensure political parties implement five percent provision of tickets to women. Meanwhile, political parties should work on amending the Act and devising a mechanism to declare 22 percent of constituencies (17 percent reserved seat quota seats plus 5 percent party tickets seats) multi-member constituencies where both men and women members contest from the same constituency. Besides, an amendment should be made to ensure that 33 percent of office-bearers at all levels of party structures should be women. Through these practical measures we can make the gender quota meaningful. Otherwise with the current modalities of reserved seat as well as general seat quotas, and patriarchal structure and culture within political parties we cannot expect a meaningful change in the women’s political participation and representation. The writer is a human rights activist Published in Daily Times, August 8th 2018.