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TAXILA: The statistics from the Cantonment Board elections in Wah, shared by the local election commission, have revealed that some interesting new records were set in the polls.

The statistics, available with Dawn, reveal that despite the fact the local government elections were held after a gap of 17 years, the participation was lacklustre. Only 36 per cent of all registered voters turned out to cast their vote. Wah Cantonment is one of the largest in the country with a large civilian population. The cantonment also boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the country, 98 per cent according to some estimates.

Participation by women was lower than that of men at 16.02 per cent and was especially low in rural areas. The percentage of rejected votes was 16 per cent. The high percentage of rejected votes belies the literacy rate in the cantonment and is reflective of the lack of guidance provided to voters regarding the proper procedure for polling.

Irshad Ali, an election observer deputed in Wah by the Election Commission, said the reasons for the low turnout of the women voters in rural areas is perhaps motivated by social reasons. “However, the turnout in urban areas is encouraging,” he said.

Senior journalist from Wah Waliur Rehman said one of the major reasons for the low turnout of the mainstream parties especially the PTI were not able to mobilise voters as it did during the 2013 general election. He said in 2013, the party’s workers, especially youth, carried out door-to-door campaigning which motivated a large number of women and young people to come to the polling stations.

“However, they were not able to do so for the local government elections,” he said.

The election results also showed that despite presence in the area, religious parties were unable to draw support. Jamaat-i-Islaami and Sunni Tehreek participated in the Cantonment Board elections with different election symbols and failed to mobilise their vote bank. The highest number of votes among the religious party candidates was secured by JI candidate Khawaja Hamza Waqar Khan. The PML-Q candidates’ votes could not even exceed 100, in any constituency.

From bitter alliances between unlikely partners to surprising records, the local government election in the Wah Cantonment has written new pages in the political history of city and the impact would perhaps be felt in the next general election.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2015

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