PESHAWAR, Aug 26: The Peshawar High Court ordered on Monday re-polling in the polling stations for women where no votes or negligible number of votes were cast during the Aug 22 by-elections in two National Assembly constituencies -- NA-5 (Nowshera-I) and NA-27 (Lakki Marwat).
A two-judge PHC bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Malik Manzoor ruled that barring women from casting vote was a detestable act which could not be approved by the court. “It is not acceptable that a vast majority of voters are deprived of their fundamental right of electing people of their choice,” it said.
The court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to prepare recommendations for the federal government for making drastic changes in the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) 1976 to ensure maximum participation of women voters and punishment for the people involved in barring them from exercising their fundamental right.
The bench noted that there was no or negligible polling in several polling stations for women on Aug 22 and that too after the chief justice had taken notice of it and issued order for extending the polling time.
The court said in its order that after going through the fact and circumstances it felt it had no alternative but to ask the ECP to immediately hold a brief but meaningful inquiry into the matter and hold re-polling in the stations at a convenient date. There should be a vigorous campaign to persuade women to come out of their homes and cast vote.
It said the elements found responsible for barring the women from casting their vote should be booked under relevant penal provisions, prosecuted and brought to justice.
The chief justice said it was regrettable that in a country where a woman had twice become prime minister and another was elected speaker of the National assembly, women had been deprived of their voting right.
The chief justice had taken notice of the issue on a complaint by an election cell set up in the court which cited TV reports that women had been barred from casting vote in 18 polling stations after compromises and agreements among elders in the NA-5 and NA-27 constituencies.
The court has already stayed the announcement of results in the two constituencies.
Nusrat Yasmeen, returning officer for NA0-5, informed the court that there were 236 polling stations in the constituency, including 70 for women and 90 for both men and women. Of the 140,000 women voters, about 20,191 cast their vote. She said no voting had taken place in 34 female polling stations while in other stations the number of votes was negligible.
Provincial election commissioner Sono Khan Baloch and ECP’s additional director (legal) Abdur Rehman Khan informed the court that of the 187,600 female voters in the NA-27 constituency, 36,000 (20 per cent) had cast their vote.
Advocate Sher Afzal Khan, the counsel for JUI-F’s candidate Maulana Attaur Rehman, alleged that in several polling stations a few bogus women votes had been polled to hoodwink the high court. He said JUI-F was against barring women voters from exercising their right.
The court said there were also reports that in some polling stations the actual number of female votes was two or four but after the notice taken by the chief justice the ratio of votes in other stations had been mutually revised by the candidates or their polling agents. It was a violation of section 80 of the RPA because it constituted an offence of impersonation, the court added.