Women in both parts of the divided state of Jammu and Kashmir have been active participants in political movements.
The trend is as old as the region’s political identity as an independent state. Historically, women played a pivotal role during the agitation and political strife against the Dogra regime and various other movements.
In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, most women have been active in politics after taking comparatively an easy route of reserved slots in the Legislative Assembly.
From a total 4 million population, Azad Jammu and Kashmir has over 50 per cent female population.
However, traditionally and culturally the region dominates the conservative trends when it comes to give women equal opportunities to participate in electoral process.
As a matter of fact, during the recent elections of the AJ & K Legislative Assembly, out of a total of over 700 candidates only 20 women were contesting on general seats.
In 2016 polls, out of 423 candidates, only eight were women who contested elections on the general seats. Of them, only one woman managed to win.
PML-N’s Noreen Arif, PPP’s Farzana Yaqoob, and PTI’s Taqdees Gilani are the familiar faces in local political circles in Azad Kashmir.
However, during the recent elections, women challengers of the status quo have proved that peoples’ behaviours and priorities about women participation in politics are changing.
JKDP’s Nabila Irshad and PTI’s Gulzar Fatima can be considered challengers to a majorly male dominant political setup in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Gulzar Fatima is among one of those Kashmiri women politicians who are mesmerised by the political ideology of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
She is an active member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Before stepping into the politics, she has been actively participating in the movements of social change in the society .
In past, she has worked as Secretary Pakistan Red Crescent –AJK chapter. Her political career spans over two decades. She has been a member of the AJK legislative assembly.
She has been advocating for good governance, fighting against injustice and corruption besides highlighting the silent role of AJK Government for the Kashmir cause.
She is a true believer in transparency and fair practices in politics. She is a fan of the charismatic leadership of her party head Prime Minister Imran Khan and fully supports his Political vision, ideology and struggle. The charisma of Imran Khan motivated her to join the PTI.
Ever since she decided to part ways with Pakistan People’s Party to join PTI she has been very active and vocal in politics of Azad Kashmir.
As soon as she joined the party , she was nominated as the president of the women wing to organize the party in AJK.
This was not an easy job to organize a party on gross root level at such time when Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was governing party in the centre and Pakistan People’s Party in AJK.
Moreover, it was difficult to mobilize women of AJK and persuade them to participate in the party’s politics because of local tribal customs and bigotries.
However, despite the absence of a strategic plan and a conducive environment for launching the party besides a poor relationship with the central command of PTI, she successfully enrolled women of every age group in the party in every district.
She managed to organize the party on a grass root level by establishing basic units of the party despite the general public was uncertain about the future of the Party.
She arranged the oath-taking ceremony of central body AJK in Muzaffarabad.
In the election year of 2016, apparently everything was set for PML-N, but Gulzar Fatima campaigned door to door for the success of her party candidates.
During the 2016 election of AJK, she was also nominated member of the “Election Manifesto Committee” of PTI.
Despite of the hurdles and challenges facing a woman politician in a highly patronising and conservative social environment, she regularly participants in all meetings of the party.
He recommendations were incorporated in PTI’s election manifesto of 2016.
During the protests in Islamabad , a heinous propaganda campaign was launched by the opposition parties to malign her party’s image and distance women from its struggle, she played a positive leadership role by not bowing in front of the pressure.
Soon after her party head came to Muzaffarabad to address a public gathering, she ensured maximum participation of women in the program to counter the opposition’s propaganda.
She participated in Imran khan’s program of “Islamabad Chalo” and reached Banigala along with many people despite hurdles placed by the then government.
She attended almost all rallies, protests and jalsas on call of the leadership.
Gulzar Fatima has been vocal on various issues of political and social importance. She has been regularly appearing on various national television channels to spread her party’s vision at the grass-root level.
During the 2021 election campaign in AJK, she organized a women convention for the support of the party’s candidate in her constituency.
She has been travelling extensively in all three divisions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and participating in every public gathering.
She has successfully mobilized women in Bagh, Hajeera, Dhirkot, Neelum and Jhelum Valleys.