Women residents of two villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Shangla district were deprived of their right to vote in by-elections on Wednesday.
By-elections had been held in KP on Wednesday to fill 43 vacant seats in 40 village/neighbourhood councils in 14 districts across the province. The seats had fallen vacant after elected councillors moved to government jobs.
Sources informed DawnNews that local notables and the candidates for two village councils, Koz Kana and Sangrai, had unanimously agreed that women would not be allowed to cast their votes.
No women turned up to vote at the 14 polling stations in the two villages, DawnNews learnt.
When contacted, District Election Officer (DEO) Sardar Said ur Rehman confirmed that the ban was imposed by locals "according to their culture".
He claimed that the ban was imposed despite efforts by the Election Commission of Pakistan to create awareness among locals regarding women's rights.
"Unfortunately, [the locals] were not willing," Rehman added.
The DEO said 35 people, including woman, were deployed as staff at polling stations on Wednesday. 60 police personnel were also deployed at each station for security purposes.
Rehman said five candidates had contested the by-elections: Gul Kamal, Liaqat Ali and Anwar Zada contested for the Koz Kana village council, whereas Muhammad Room and Fazal Qadar contested for the election in Sangrai.
When asked about the restriction on female voters, one of the candidates contesting the by-election said that women were prohibited to vote according to an "old tradition."
He also expressed reservations about an ECP plan to combine male and female polling stations.
Total registered voters in Koz Kana numbered 6,643. Among them, 3,652 were male and 2,991 female.
Similarly, 1,507 voters are registered in Sangrai, of which 862 were male and 705 were female.
Voting at men's polling stations was conducted smoothly and would end at 5pm Wednesday.