Women’s Representation in Local Democracy: Formal and Informal Institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. James Butterfield

Second Advisor

Dr. Suhashni Datta-Sandhu

Third Advisor

Dr. Priscilla A Lambert

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Chien-Juh Gu


Formal and informal institutions, 'Women' s representation, Pakhtunwali, Local democracy, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan


Pakistan's democracy is still rather new. In 2000, General Pervez Musharraf promulgated Local Government Ordinance 2000, which introduced 33 percent gender quotas for women in the local government. On April 8, 2010, under the 18th amendment to the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, the provincial governments were empowered to introduce local government reforms independently and per their needs and contexts. Thus, the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) passed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2013 on October 31, 2013. Local elections were subsequently held on May 30, 2015. Many women joined the local government as councilors in KP. At the same time, Pashtun society in KP follows a set of informal institutions called Pakhtunwali that may affect women councilors’ substantive representation and civic participation in local democratic processes.

The aim of the study is to assess women councilors’ substantive representation as a process and their civic participation in local democracy in the three selected districts (Peshawar, Mardan, and Swat) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. This study tests a total of five hypotheses on the interaction between formal and informal institutions and its impact on women substantive representation and civic participation. Furthermore, the independent variables of political parties, civil society, and the media are also hypothesized to assess their effects on the dependent variables.

The study uses a case study approach. Triangulation is applied for confidence and verification purposes. The primary research methods used are qualitative individual indepth interviews and observation. A total of 63 individual interviews, 60-90 minutes per session (one session per participant) are conducted with respondents. The study participants include female and male councilors from 12 local councils of the three selected districts. Furthermore, experts (academics), civil society activists, and journalists also make a part of the interview respondents. Additionally, two newspapers are selected to collect news items from to do content analysis. The research methods of narrative review, content analysis, and statistical analysis are also used to enhance the internal validity of the research.

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