PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan has said it will provide postal ballots to special persons for participation in the July 25 elections.

“The returning officers will send postal ballots to persons with disabilities under the Election Act, 2017, on the addresses mentioned in their special cards issued by the National Database and Registration Authority,” provincial election commissioner Pir Maqbool Ahmad told a meeting of the Gender and Electoral Working Group in his office here on Monday.

The meeting was attended by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on the Status of Women representative Amna Durrani, Bridge (minority organisation) executive director Shams Naveed, Pead project manager Tariq Hayat, Takra Qabailee Khwendi member Sameena, Special Persons Association president Ihsanullah and general secretary Javed Khan, Paiman regional coordinator Mohammad Asfandyar, Urdo executive director Zaheer Khattak, Aurat Foundation’s Sonia Gul and Sarmad Rasheed, Aware Girls representative Salma Bibi and Madeeha, Khwendo Kor’s Gulalai and Laila Shahnawaz, and Haroon Shinwari.

The election commissioner said the ECP with the provincial government’s cooperation was committed to ensuring the access of special persons to polling stations.

He said all necessary measures had already been taken to facilitate special persons and women to participate in elections.

“Disenfranchisement of a large number of women is not only a violation of their constitutional right to vote but it also shows their low status in society. Political parties and civil society organisations should work to ensure that women and physically-challenged people exercise their right to vote on July 25 as their importance for the electoral exercise can’t be ignored,” he said.

Mr Ahmad said ironically, the participation of women and special persons in elections had been next to nil mainly due to other people’s negative attitude towards them.

He said the implementation of code of conduct for elections would be overseen in every provincial constituency by two monitoring officers and relevant deputy commissioner as district monitoring officer.

The election commissioner said the holding of elections on a single day was a big challenge and therefore, all stakeholders should help the ECP to do it befittingly.

ECP additional director general Nighat Siddiqui, who was also in attendance, urged the civil society organisations to play due role in creating awareness among voters to improve their turnout in elections.

The participants gave suggestions for the peaceful holding of elections and appreciated the ECP’s steps for it.

Haroon Shinwari said consultations would continue for peaceful elections and better turnout of marginalised sections of society.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2018