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The play, organised by Punjab Lok Sujag, was called “Parchee”. The purpose of the theatre exercise was to convince women to become involved in the electoral process and use their right to enfranchisement. — Photo credit: Shafiq Butt.

In a village in Sahiwal, a play could have an impact on the way elections play out in their district on May 11.

For over 35 years, not a single woman has cast her vote in three villages in Sahiwal District. But this week, more than 300 village women gathered to watch a play in the lawn of an elementary school which underlined the important of women going out to vote.

The play, organised by Punjab Lok Sujag, was called “Parchee”. The purpose of the theatre exercise was to convince women to become involved in the electoral process and use their right to enfranchisement.

According to the villagers, the reason women had not voted in decades was a 70-year old dispute between two rival biraderis, Kharal and Awan.

A local lady health worker, Nighat, told Dawn.com that as a result of the dispute, 22 people had died over the years. Each clan feared to let their women vote, saying their lives were threatened by the other clan.

Maimoona Amjad, a social mobiliser for Lok Sujag said that it was against this backdrop of an inter-clan feud that the organisation mobilised women to cast their votes.

Amjad added that they held several group discussions with elders from both Biraderis to convince them to allow their women to vote.

The headmistress of the elementary school where the play was staged, Rafia Sultana, said that this was the first time in the history of the village that so many women came to see a play.

“Parchee” is written by Lakht Pasha and directed by Hammad Afzal.

Significantly, during the 2008 elections, the local Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) office had sent female polling staff to the area but not even one of the 755 registered female voters from the three villages turned up.