PESHAWAR, Oct 17: Social constraints stopped women in rural areas from casting vote but a number of educated women in urban localities also didn’t vote owing to their lack of interest, said participants of a discussion here on Wednesday.
The discussion was organised by Aurat Foundation in connection with National Voters’ Day, being observed for the first time in the country to raise awareness among people about importance of vote.
A number of women rights activists and lawyers present on the occasion admitted that some of them had not voted all their life. “I don’t go to polling station to cast vote because I feel the same faces will be elected and no change will come,” said Rukhsana, a resident of Kohat.
Sadia Marwat of Aurat Foundation said that women in villages were taken to polling stations by candidates. The educated women and those, who face mobility problems or restricted by male members of their families don’t go to polling stations to cast vote.
Saima Munir said that casting vote was not just the right of a woman like any other citizen but it was more than that. A woman actually took part in a political process and assumed the role of decision-maker when she cast vote, she added.
“The government (Election Commission of Pakistan) is holding this day for the first time that shows it has realised the importance of motivating people to use their right of franchise,” said Ms Munir.
Saima Ghazal, an educated girl from Peshawar, said that she had not so far voted in any election. “Today I realise how important it is to give my opinion and cast vote in the elections,” she said.
Qamar, another young woman from Swabi, also said that she had observed that women didn’t realise importance of their vote.
In Khyber Agency, speakers at a seminar stressed the need for enrolling maximum number of voters in Fata.
The seminar was organised by the local office of Election Commission in Jamrud on Wednesday. Tribal elders, political and religious leaders and members of the civil society spoke on the occasion about the importance of vote.
Regional Election Commissioner Talib Hussain said that they were trying to educate masses, especially people of Fata, about enrolment process and judicious use of vote. “We want to take this massage to every house and every locality in tribal areas to increase turnout in the coming elections,” he said.
Assistant Election Commissioner Abdul Qayyum said that tribesmen were interested in taking active part in electioneering but unfortunately they were not fully aware of it owing to low literacy rate and a six-decade ban on political activities in Fata.
Shah Faisal, a political activist from Bara, said that the ongoing military operations and prolonged curfew had badly affected enrolment of eligible voters in Bara. He said that a fresh registration drive should be launched in Bara to cover most of the left out areas.
Another political activist Ikramullah Jan Kukikhel pointed out errors in the voter list of Khyber Agency.
Manzoor Afridi, a social activist, said that the value of vote in tribal areas would increase if Fata parliamentarians were empowered to legislate for their own areas.
In Mohmand Agency, Assistant Election Commissioner Haroon Shinwari briefed the leaders of all political parties, civil society members and local journalists about the importance of vote.
He said that 107 polling stations would be set up in Mohmand during the upcoming general elections. “There were 136,000 registered voters in Mohmand, but now the number will increase to 173,000,” he added.
Mr Shinwari urged civil society, political parties and media to play a role in increasing public awareness about importance of vote.
In Charsadda, speakers at a function highlighted the importance of casting vote and taking part in the election process. The conscious use of vote would bring a real, devoted and representative leadership into power for better future of the coming generations, they said.
The function was addressed by DEC Waliur Rehman, Nadra deputy director Mohammad Ali, EDO Attaullah Miankhel, EDO Jehanzeb Khan, JUI district president Gohar Shah, JI general secretary Misbahullah and PTI’s Hassan Gul.
In Bajaur Agency, speakers at a seminar expressed concern over registration of Afghan nationals as voters in the region.
Tribal elders and leaders of different political parties including Malik Mohammad Ayaz Khan, Malik Mohammad Younas Khan, PML-N leader Haji Rahat Yousaf, PTI leader Jalaluddin Khan, Gul Afzal Khan of ANP and Haji Khan Bahadur of PPP addressed the seminar.
They alleged that a large number of Afghans, living in the different parts of the region, were registered as voters in the local voter lists.
“We have credible information that thousands of Afghan nationals have registered themselves as voters,” they said. They demanded of the administration to probe the matter thoroughly.
The speakers also showed dissatisfaction over the performance of Nadra, saying tribal people were facing problems in getting national identity cards.
In Lakki Marwat, speakers at a seminar stressed the need for educating people about the importance of voting and elections to strengthen democracy in the country.
DCO Nisar Ahmad, ACO Liaqat Ali Bhatti, District Election Commissioner Noorza Ali Shah, Assistant Election Commissioner Hamidullah Khan, Syed Khalid Israr Shah, ADO Tahir Ahmad, Abdul Mutlib and Ameer Mashal Khan addressed the seminar.
They said that voters’ education was inevitable for continuity of democracy and stability of democratic institutions in the country. They said that civil society, NGOs and political parties should play a role to educate people about importance of vote.