Dilemmas of Representation: Women in Pakistan’s Assemblies
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Recognizing constraints Pakistani women legislators face despite their entry into politics on a 17 per cent quota in national and provincial assemblies, it is time to rethink how quotas can lead to their political mainstreaming. This article explores quota legislators' views on their own accountability and empowerment based on the first online survey in Pakistan with 200 women in the assemblies (2013-18). Findings show quota legislators resist classification as male proxies and view themselves as accountable to notional voters, although they are indirectly elected. Many report silencing and harassment by male colleagues. Cross-party women's caucuses in each assembly have a mixed track record of facilitating substantive representation, undermined by religious parties and class differences. Respondents favoured further affirmative action mechanisms to increase their political voice, e.g. additional quota requirements within parties, more tickets for general seats and participation in key decision-making bodies of parties. A trajectory for women in politics to move from quota seats (in local bodies and assemblies) to general seats is not yet in place.