PESHAWAR, May 2: The Election Commission of Pakistan’s code of conduct barring candidates from arranging transport for voters on the polling day may affect women voters’ turnout, say women activists who are monitoring the pre-poll situation in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“If women have no easy access to the polling stations and transport facility like they had in the past elections, many women have told us they would not go out to vote,” said Maria Ghazi, a social mobiliser working with Blue Veins organisation.
“During our door-to-door campaign in one of the villages where the polling station is quite far away from the residential area, the women said that if they are not provided transport they would rather stay at home on May 11,” she said.
Aged voters and handicapped persons would also face the same problems and would hesitate to go out on the day of election if there is no transport available, she said.
In the past, candidates used to provide free transport and even food to voters of their constituency in the hope to win their support.
However, the Section 18 of the ECP code of conduct states: “Political parties, contesting candidates and their supporters shall not use any vehicle to transport to or from the polling station any elector except himself and members of his immediate family.”
“Stay at home; you don’t need to go out and vote,” the men of the family would say to their women who would not have easy availability of transport to go to the polling stations,” said Sumera, a youth from a village of Swabi district. She said that mobility was a big issue for women in the suburban areas and if transportation facility was not provided the women would be discouraged to poll their vote.
Khursheed Bano, a social activist, said that no woman would leave her housework and spend money on transport for just casting her vote.
She thinks the ECP bar on provision of transport by the candidates would have a bad impact on women voters’ turnout.
According to official data, the number of women voters is 5.25 million of the total 12.26 million voters registered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. If these women would have no easy access to the polling stations and there are no proper transport facilities, especially in rural areas, the women voters’ turnout is likely to be low.
“In a province where there are already many hurdles in the way of women’s participation in election process, lack of transport facility on the election day to facilitate their mobility would have negative impact on the voters’ turnout,” said Tamkeen, a lawyer.
Other women activists said that the ECP should allow provision of free of charge facility of transport to the women, handicapped and elderly people to boost the voters’ turnout in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.