UPPER DIR: The recent discovery that political parties had barred women in Lower Dir from voting has turned out to not be an isolated incident. Another agreement has now surfaced, showing that political parties in Upper Dir also mutually agreed to effectively disenfranchise female voters in the region.
The document, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, carries signatures by representatives of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
The document authorises Malik Jehanzib Kalorang and Malik Faiz Muhamamd Khan of Dogram to take a decision about women voting on Upper Dir’s PK-93 provincial assembly seat. The decision would be binding on all the candidates contesting in the constituency and those ‘in violation’ would be fined Rs 10 million.
JI candidate Behram Khan won the PK-93 seat in the May 11 poll by gaining 12,894 votes, while Sahibzada Sanaullah of the PPP returned as the runner-up with 9,500 votes.
Earlier, a similar agreement had surfaced from Lower Dir’s PK-95 seat where JI candidate Sirajul Haq returned as the winner. Haq is slated to get a ministerial portfolio in a likely deal with the PTI, the leading party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Meanwhile, the civil society organisations in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa have written to the Chief Election Commissioner to take action against the political parties who had barred women from voting in Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Buner and other parts of the province during the polls.
The organisation have asked the ECP to declare the elections null and void and conduct re-polling in the affected constituencies with the guarantee that right to vote is ensured for all women.
Only one woman vote
The Resident Director of the Aurat Foundation Shabina Ayaz told Dawn.com that NA-32 Upper Dir has about 138,910 women voters. But, according to data filed by the returning officer, only one woman vote has been polled in the constituency.
Similarly, in Buner’s NA-28 women were not allowed to vote on 11 polling stations. Out of a total of 164,821 registered female voters, only 17,655 votes were polled. Ayaz said this was a clear violation of women rights to vote and must be taken into account by the Election Commission.
She said that elections at all constituencies where women had been barred from voting must be termed null and void and fresh polling should be held there.
The Election Commission through its data can verify the number of voters at all the polling stations and must ensure the womenfolk must be facilitated to vote, she said.
According to Election Rules Clause 20, women cannot be barred from voting but there are no clear-cut rules as to what should happen if such a violation is committed, she said.
Qamar Naseem, programme coordinator at another human rights organisation, said the ECP had already been informed about the apprehensions but had failed to take any action.
“The agreement on PK-93 and PK-95 are a clear violation of the constitution of Pakistan and also the electoral code of conduct,” he said
Naseem said that according to government rules, if anybody stops a woman form voting, he can be punished for up to five years imprisonment and Rs150,000, and therefore the culprits must be punished under law.