Women Disenfranchisement - a ‘tradition in Lower Dir’
ISLAMABAD: The disenfranchisement of women voters in the Lower Dir district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is not new – women have never been allowed to cast their votes in this conservative region for the past 30 years.
“Traditionally, women have not voted in this constituency since 1985,” said Sahibzada Tariqullah, a Jamaat-e-Islami MNA from the area, told Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday.
During the hearing at the ECP headquarters of a case involving disenfranchisement of women in Lower Dir, all candidates denied women were barred from voting in the May 7 by-polls for the provincial assembly constituency PK-95.
Reportedly, not a single woman in the constituency of 127,096 registered voters cast her vote in the election. Rights campaigners claim the same had happened in the constituency during the 2013 general elections.
The by-poll was held in the constituency after JI chief Sirajul Haq vacated the seat on being elected to Senate in March this year. JI’s Aizazul Mulk won the by-election defeating his rival Bahadur Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP).
Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Muhammad Sardar Raza took notice of media reports and summoned all the contesting candidates and K-P’s chief secretary, but no official gave any concrete material so the commission could take any punitive step.
ANP’s former MNA Bushra Gohar is campaigning against this ‘negative vote pattern’ in the constituency, but interestingly her own party candidate coalesced with others in denying that women were barred from voting through a secret agreement among the contestants.
“The ECP should declare the by-election null and void to put an end to the practice of disenfranchisement of women,” Gohar said.
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