MIANWALI: Despite reportedly agreeing to allow women their right to vote over a month ago at a gathering arranged by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Ayla Malik in Paikhel union council, the area elders have again barred the female folk from exercising the right to franchise on May 11.
During a visit by this correspondent to the area, it transpired that the Paikhel elders were not allowing the women of their families to vote, considering this would be a digression from their age-old patriarchal traditions.
After partition of the subcontinent the women of areas including Makarwal, Chapri, Tola Bangi Khel, Kalabagh, Chakrala and Paikhel etc were not allowed to vote by their family elders.
But, with the passage of time except in Paikhel the women of the rest of the areas were gradually allowed to cast votes in general as well as local elections.
The women of these areas are either told to vote for the candidate of the choice of their male folk or stay home.
Recently, PTI leader Ayla Malik, also a grand daughter of Nawab Malik Amir Muhammad Khan of Kalabagh, made frequent visits to Paikhel to convince the area elders to allow the women to cast vote in May 11 polls. She even succeeded in eliciting a commitment from some of the area elders that the women would be permitted to cast vote. But the area elders took a U-turn ahead of election, returning to what they call a tradition set by their forefathers.
There are some 8,000 women voters in Paikhel union council that comprise the town and the suburban area.
It is learnt through area elders that in 1956 local political rivals had an agreement that the women folk would not be allowed to cast vote and the contest would be all-male.
Though the area youth, according to some locals, wanted the women to participate in the electoral process, but they felt helpless because of the rigidity of their elders in this regard.
Sanaullah Khan, a social worker, was of the view that women must be allowed to vote as that would result in development of the area. But, he said, this was only possible if elders wanted so.
Ali Khan, an elder of the area, said: “It is our pride to keep women away from politics. How we can alter the traditions of our forefathers.”
Jehan Khna, Paikhel Welfare Society secretary, feels the present day women should essentially take part in every field of life for betterment of country. But, he finds it hard to convince the elders. He appealed to the Election Commission to make it mandatory for women to cast vote.
Baba Tora Baz Khan told Dawn that he would keep alive the traditions of area till his death because the actual place of women was within the boundary of their house.
He said a few days ago Ayla Malik visited the area to convince him to allow women to vote. “But, I asked from her (Ms Ayla) why her grandfather Malik Amir Muhammad Khan was against casting of vote by women and she was speechless on this point.”
Naseem Bibi, a women activist of the area, said: “We were waiting for permission from our elders to cast vote and the only ray of hope is the media.”
She said during the elections announcements were made from mosques and other places, urging the men not to allow women to vote.