TIMERGARA: Jamaat-i-Islami retained its Lower Dir seat in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in a by-election on Thursday. The PK-95 seat had fallen vacant in March after the party’s Emir, Sirajul Haq, was elected senator.
According to unofficial results, JI’s Izazul Mulk Afkari defeated his nearest rival, Haji Bahadur Khan of the Awami National Party, by 3,856 votes. The Jamaat candidate bagged 19,812 votes while the ANP man got 15,954.
During the 2013 general elections, JI had won this seat with a margin of around 12,000 votes. Sirajul Haq had received 23,030 votes while his rival, Hidayatullah Khan of ANP, got 11,130.
However, the most newsworthy aspect of the day was the total absence of women from polling booths. Not even one, out of the 47,280 women registered to vote, came to exercise her right at any of the 85 polling stations.
District election commission officer Inayat Khan told Dawn that arrangements had been made at all the 85 polling stations in PK-95 for women voters. Women polling staffers were deployed at every polling booth and they waited till 5pm for women voters.
He further said announcements were made on mosques’ loudspeakers to motivate women for casting their votes. But, he regretted, no woman came to cast her vote.
The JI chief, Sirajul Haq, told reporters that his party had never opposed voting by women. He appealed to women voters to come to polling stations and cast their votes.
The ANP candidate told Dawn that none of the political parties had made a tacit understanding to bar women from voting this time. He said that he had no authority to bring women by force for casting votes.
The protestations of politicians notwithstanding, this was not the first time that women had stayed away from polling stations in the province. In a number of instances, the candidates themselves are known to have asked women openly to abstain from voting.
In other cases, there was a tacit understanding to discourage women from exercising their right of franchise.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015