Women leaders
Women's organizations


Located in South Asia, Pakistan shares an eastern border with India and a north-eastern border with China. Iran makes up the country’s south-west border, and Afghanistan runes along its western and northern edge. The Arabian Sea is Pakistan’s southern boundary with 1,064 km of coastline.  

It has a population of more than 140 million people, which is predominantly Muslim (95%). Literacy rate is quite low at  38.9%. The national language is Urdu while English, an official language, is widely spoken. Forty-seven percent of its 37.15 million people in labor force are engaged in the agriculture industry. Per capita income is US$460.

Pakistan is a poor country with great extremes in the distribution of wealth. Cotton, textiles and apparel, rice, and leather products are the principal exports. The economy included both state-run and private industries and financial institutions. The Constitution provides for the right of private businesses to operate freely in most sectors of the economy, and there continued to be a strong private sector. The per capita annual income was approximately $475. During the year, the Government pursued several economic reforms designed to alleviate poverty.

The country's head of state and government is General Pervez Musharraf.


Links to Pakistan:

Women in Pakistan

There are significant barriers to the advancement of women beginning at birth.  In general female children are less valued and cared for than are male children.  According to a UN study, girls receive less nourishment, health care, and education than do boys.  In February Dr. Sher Shah Syed, of the Pakistan National Forum on Women's Health in Karachi, reported that the maternal mortality rate is 600 per 100,000 pregnancies; this figure contradicts the Government's figure of 300 per 100,000 pregnancies.  At Karachi's civil hospital, the maternal mortality rate was 2,257 per 100,000 in 1999.  According to a 1996 report by the Islamabad-based human development center, only 16 women are economically active for every 100 men.

Discrimination against women is particularly acute in rural areas.  In some areas of rural Sindh and Baluchistan, female literacy rates are 2 percent or less.  A survey of rural females by the National Institute of Psychology found that 42 percent of parents cited "no financial benefit" as the reason they kept their daughters from attending school, and sent their sons instead.  Similarly a study by the NWFP directorate of primary education concluded that most girls in rural areas do not go to school because they have to look after the household while their mothers help in the fields.  In Karachi only 28 percent of girls completing matriculation (10th grade) exams in science during the year would be able to find places in government-run colleges, as opposed to 83 percent of boys passing the same tests. 

Human rights monitors and women's groups believe that a narrow interpretation of Shari'a has had a harmful effect on the rights of women and minorities, as it reinforces popular attitudes and perceptions and contributes to an atmosphere in which discriminatory treatment of women and non-Muslims is more readily accepted.

In December of 2000 speakers at a seminar stated that large numbers of working women face discrimination and sexual harassment.  Women routinely are denied equal opportunities for promotion, pay, and benefits.  Additionally women in some sectors are denied days off and overtime benefits. 

Although a small number of women study and teach in universities, postgraduate employment opportunities for women largely remain limited to teaching, medical services, and the law.  Nevertheless, an increasing number of women are entering the commercial and public sectors.

Women's organizations operate primarily in urban centers.  Many concentrate on educating women about existing legal rights.  Other groups concentrate on providing legal aid to poor women in prison who may not be able to afford an attorney.

The Government took several positive steps to improve the status of women during the year.  For example, in April 2000 President Tarar issued an amendment ordinance to the citizenship law, which enables women who are married to foreign husbands to claim citizenship for their children.  In September the Government inaugurated a National Commission on the Status of Women.  The Commission was established in order to advise the Government on policies directly affecting women; however, the Commission lacks the authority to ensure that its recommendations are implemented.

Women in politics: According to an article from Inter Press Service, 13 women have been elected to non-reserved, open seats on the 342-seat National Assembly -- nine from Punjab province, three from Sindh, and one from Balochistan. These 13 representatives come on top of 60 other women elected on especially reserved seats in the national legislature for women, quotas established to increase political representation by women. Similarly, 17 percent of seats in each of the four provincial assemblies have also been reserved for women. As many as 11 women have been elected to the provincial legislatures, with only one in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

There is one woman in the Cabinet and none in the Supreme Court. During 2001 the Musharraf Government set aside one-third of the seats in the local council elections for female candidates. In 2002, the National Reconstruction Bureau enacted electoral reforms that include the tripling of National Assembly seats reserved for women. According to the Election Commission, 2,621 women competed for 1,867 reserved seats at the district level in 2001. In some districts, social and religious conservatives prevented women from becoming candidates; however, in several districts, female candidates were elected unopposed. Women participate in large numbers in elections, although some are dissuaded from voting by family, religious, and social customs. In districts of the NWFP and southern Punjab's tribal areas, conservative religious leaders lobbied successfully to prevent women from contesting elections or casting ballots. According to press reports, female voters were threatened and their families intimidated from voting and running for office. In October the MMA coalition of religious parties declared that the families of women who voted in NWFP would be fined. Prime Minister Jamali has one female minister and one female special advisor. Provincial governors appointed by President Musharraf also have named women to serve in provincial cabinets.

Read more on the human rights situation of women in Pakistan in this report.


Important political facts

Government type: Federal Republic
Head of state: The President, elected by the Parliament. The incumbent is Pervez Musharraf. The president is self-appointed and the government is formed by supporters of the president. He was confirmed as president in a referendum in 2002.

Legislature: The Majlis-l-Shura has two chambers. The National Assembly has 342 members, elected for a five year term, 272 members elected in single seat constituencies; 10 seats voor minorities will be filled by the nominees of political parties on the basis of the latter’s strength in the National Assembly elections and 60 seats seats for women will be nominated by political parties in accordance to their share of National Assembly seats per province. The Senate has 100 members, elected by the provincial parliaments. Of the 66 general seats, 14 have been allocated to each of the four provinces while the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) and the federal capital are assigned eight (directly elected) and two seats (according to National Assembly elections) respectively. The general seats are open to all, irrespective of gender or religion. In addition, each province has been conferred four seats for technocrats (including ulema) and four for women. Two seats, one for technocrats and another for women, have been reserved for the federal capital.
Executive: Following a military takeover on 12 October 1999, Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Pervez Musharraf, suspended Pakistan's constitution and assumed the additional title of Chief Executive; exercising the powers of the head of the government, he appointed an eight-member National Security Council to function as Pakistan's supreme governing body; on 12 May 2000, Pakistan's Supreme Court unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted Musharraf executive and legislative authority for three years from the coup date; on 20 June 2001, Musharraf named himself as president and was sworn in, replacing Mohammad Rafiq Tarar; in a referendum held on 30 April 2002, Musharraf's presidency was extended by five more years.

Most recent elections

Presidential: 2002 (referendum)

Legislative: 20 October 2002 (National Assembly) and 2 March 1994/12 march 1997 (Senate).

Next elections: 2007 (National Assembly)

Political Parties:          

Awami National Party
Tel.: 92-21-534513

Baluchistan National Party

Haq Parast Group
Pakistan's People's Party
Chairperson: Benazir Bhutto
Number of seats in the National Assembly: 71
Address: Zardari House - 8, Street 19, Sector F-8/2, Islamabad - Pakistan
Jamhoori Watan Party
National People's Party
Pakhtoon Muslim League-Junejo

Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam)
Number of seats in the National Assembly: 69

Islah Party of Pakistan
Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan
Muttahida Quami Movement
Head: Altaf Hussain
Number of seats in the National Assembly: 13
Address: NINE ZERO, 494/8 Azizabad, Federal B. Area
Karachi, Pakistan

Muttahhida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan
Number of seats in the National Assembly: 53

Natural Law Party


Political resources on Pakistan

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Links to Pakistan

Women in Pakistan
Important political facts
Political resources