TRADITION, particularly those pernicious aspects of it that serve to empower one segment of the population at the expense of the other, is never easy to counter. But countered it must be if human rights are to be uniformly applied across Pakistan. That is why the ECP should resist the determined attempts in parts of the country to keep women voters disenfranchised despite the re-polling held on its orders on May 23 at two polling stations in Battagram after receiving complaints that women voters registered there were not allowed to cast their ballot on May 11. Reportedly, not a single woman came to vote throughout the day of re-polling either. As a consequence, according to the local election official, the previous result would be retained.
The ECP had acted correctly in ordering the re-poll, thereby sending the message that women must be able to freely exercise their right of franchise. It should do the same wherever misogynistic tactics were employed in the recent elections, and several instances of agreements between local chapters of political parties to restrain women from voting have come to light. However, for the ECP to accept the outcome of the re-poll in the Battagram constituency as a fait accompli is to hand victory to the regressive mindset that sees women as having no right to public space and no voice in the political sphere. Moreover, to believe that women willingly did not even take the second opportunity to exercise their right of franchise is to allow hidebound elements to pull wool over our eyes. The fact is that those who restrained women from voting on May 11 could have ‘persuaded’ them otherwise this time around, had they chosen to do so. The ECP should take an unequivocal stand on the issue and annul the results of this constituency. Those who have won the election by depriving women of their vote do not deserve a place in the assemblies.