Women remain indoors as JI wins Dir by-poll

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Voters line up outside a polling station in Lower Dir on Thursday. — INP
Voters line up outside a polling station in Lower Dir on Thursday. — INP

TIMERGARA: Jamaat-i-Islami retained its provincial assembly seat as its candidate Izazul Mulk Afkari defeated Awami National Party’s Haji Bahadur Khan with a margin of 3,856 votes in the by-election in PK-95 constituency here on Thursday.

The by-election was marred by a controversy as about 47,280 registered women voters were not allowed to cast their votes.

According to unofficial result, Mr Afkari bagged 19,812 votes against 15,954 votes of the runner-up Mr Bahadar Khan.

The seat had fallen vacant after JI chief Sirajul Haq was elected senator in March this year. During the 2013 general elections, JI had won the seat with a margin of around 12,000 votes as Sirajul Haq had received 23,030 votes against 1,1130 votes of his rival Hidayatullah Khan of ANP.

A tough contest between JI and ANP was witnessed in the by-poll. PPP and JUI-F had withdrawn their candidates in favour of the ANP candidate. The seat was won by JI for the fifth time since 1988. Although PTI had formed alliance with JI, yet its voters refused to vote for the JI candidate. The poll remained peaceful as the law enforcement agencies had taken special measures to avert any untoward incident.

After announcement of unofficial results, JI workers came on roads at Samar Bagh, Munda and Maskini and celebrated the victory by distributing sweets and chanting slogans.

None of the 47, 280 women voters came to exercise her right to vote at any of the 85 polling stations in PK-95, Dir Lower.

The process of polling continued smoothly from 8am to 5pm. The workers of ANP and JI clashed at Toor Qilla polling station due to which the staff suspended voting for a while. However, the voting resumed there after some time. There had been no report of any violence or any other uncertain situation.

During visits to different polling stations, the election staff told this scribe that they had made female polling booths at all polling stations but no woman visited the station till 4pm.

Inayat Khan, the district election commission officer, told Dawn that all arrangements had been made at 85 polling stations of PK-95 for women voters. The women polling staffers were deployed at every polling booth who waited there till 5pm for women voters.

He said that announcements were made through loudspeakers to motivate women for casting their votes. But, he regretted, no woman voter came to cast her vote.

JI chief Sirajul Haq after casting his vote at Samar Bagh told journalists that their party never opposed casting of votes by women in the area. He appealed to women voters to come to polling stations and cast their votes.

ANP candidate Haji Bahadar Khan told Dawn at Munda that none of the political parties had made agreement to bar women from casting their votes. He said that he had no authority to bring women by force for casting votes.

The polling agents of the arch rivals JI and ANP told Dawn that due to Pakhtun norms and traditions women of the area did not want to come to polling stations. They said that being polling agents of the contesting parties, they would not like to force their wives and sisters to come out of their homes for casting votes.

The law enforcement agencies had made special security arrangements to avert any eventuality. Commandant of Dir Scouts Col Nasar Umar Hayat Lalaika, deputy commissioner Dir Lower, district police officer and other officials visited different polling stations and expressed satisfaction over the arrangements.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015

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