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BATTAGRAM/SWABI: Women in some conservative parts of the Battagram and Swabi districts may not come out of their houses to cast vote during the Wednesday’s elections, thus affecting the overall turnout.

Niamatullah, a social activist in Battagram, told Dawn on Monday that in some parts of the district women preferred to stay indoors though there was no formal agreement between the elders and the candidates to keep women away from polling stations.

He explained that most family heads believed that letting their women to cast vote was against the Pakhtun culture.

Meanwhile, district election commissioner Zeeshan Khan told Dawn that during the campaign for highlighting the vote importance, the ECP had registered more women voters than men. He said only four per cent of women voters cast their ballot in the previous general election.

He said before this total number of registered voters in the district was 209,322 which included 87,915 women, while in 2018 general election total number of registered voters had increased to 258,155 with 105,858 women voters.

He said the election commission had set up polling stations at suitable places to facilitate women voters. He hoped that women voters’ contribution would be high.

Zeeshan Khan said according to the section 9 of the Election Act, 2017, if the turnout of women voters was less than 10 per cent of the total votes polled in a constituency, the commission may presume that the women voters had been restrained through an agreement from casting their votes and may declare, polling at one or more polling stations or election in the whole constituency, void.

Similarly, he said if in any polling station women polling did not take place, the ECP would exercise its power to announce re-polling in the area.

Election candidates in Swabi told Dawn that they would struggle to bring women to polling stations over social pressures as men in many areas considered participation in elections to be a masculine job and restricted female family members to home on election day.

The candidates also blamed it on low literacy rate among women.

Political activist Muqarab Khan said men were opposed to the women’s education fearing once female members of family were educated, they won’t listen to them and decide on things on their own, including enfranchisement.

He said the district had 912,669 voters, including 514,651 men and rest women.

However, some people hoped good women turnout at polling stations.

PML-N supporter Sardar Khan, who belongs to Maneri Bala area, claimed that the people’s mindset about the women’s voting right had changed a lot in the region and therefore, he expected that a large number of women would cast vote on July 25.

Arif Shah of a NGO said his organisation had carried out a campaign to educate women in the district about their right to vote and its exercising.

“I hope that a large number of women will participate in the Wednesday elections,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2018